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Report: Negotiating with Jewish Home, Shaked agrees to only support Netanyahu

If true, Shaked’s commitment to her former party goes against her current agreement with political partner Hendel; Zionist Spirit rejects report, calling it ‘baseless lies’

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked speaks at the Israel Bar Association conference in Tel Aviv, September 5, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked speaks at the Israel Bar Association conference in Tel Aviv, September 5, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Zionist Spirit leader and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked has agreed to commit to only supporting a government led by opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu as part of ongoing negotiations she has been holding with her former party, Jewish Home, ahead of the November elections, Walla News reported Friday.

Zionist Spirit claimed the report was false.

Shaked’s reported commitment to only support Netanyahu would go against her agreement with her party’s co-founder Yoaz Hendel to not support a narrow government led by Netanyahu but rather, a broad unity government.

According to the report, the Jewish Home party has also demanded that Shaked reserve the second and fourth slots on her party’s Knesset slate for Jewish Home representatives at the expense of Hendel and Zvi Hauser from the Derech Eretz faction, which united with Shaked’s Yamina in July to form Zionist Spirit.

Spots lower on the list are seen as unlikely to enter the Knesset, as Zionist Spirit has struggled to poll above the 3.25% electoral threshold needed to enter Knesset in November. Managing to cross the threshold would grant the party four seats.

Jewish Home is also polling significantly below the threshold.

Hendel has reportedly refused to make any changes to his original agreements with Shaked, which has created tensions between the two in recent days, Walla said.

According to the report, the Jewish Home party had also conditioned a potential alliance with Shaked’s Zionist Spirit party upon Shaked quitting the current government led by Prime Minister Yair Lapid, which the minister refused to do.

Ayelet Shaked (Yamina) and Yoaz Hendel (Derech Eretz) merge their parties to form the Zionist Spirit party, July 27, 2022. (Ariel Zandberg)

After a 3-hour meeting Thursday between Shaked and Hendel that was generally described as “good,” the political partners decided to continue running together, for now, the report said. But Shaked also intends to continue negotiating with the Jewish Home party until the party lists are submitted next Thursday, which leaves room for more political drama to unfold until then.

The Zionist Spirit has denied the report, saying it presented “baseless lies.”

“Shaked was never asked by the Jewish Home party to quit the government, support this or that candidate, or reserve the second slot on her list for Jewish Home representatives,” read a statement issued by Zionist Spirit.

According to Walla, Shaked is interested in joining forces with Jewish Home partly because she is interested in using the Hebrew letter “Bet” — historically identified with religious Zionism in Israel — on the ballot slip.

But even if such a partnership does pan out, Shaked will still have a hard time crossing the threshold required to enter the Knesset.

According to recent polls, the Jewish Home party is currently expected to reach only 0.02% of votes.

Israeli TV polls are often too small to accurately predict election results, with margins of error large enough to sway as many as five seats, but they can offer a general overview of public opinion and often influence jockeying between politicians.

Then prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, speaks with then justice minister Ayelet Shaked in the Knesset, December 21, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A central issue in the upcoming election is whether or not to back the popular but polarizing Netanyahu for prime minister. In the aftermath of the last election, Yamina refused to commit to backing Netanyahu or an alternative government, allowing Bennett to parlay his kingmaker position into a sweetheart deal that made him premier for a year, despite heading one of the Knesset’s smallest parties.

If Zionist Spirit manages to cross the electoral threshold of four Knesset seats, it could find itself in a similar position, with the ability to tip the scales toward securing a Likud-led coalition.

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