Netanyahu decides to steamroll Shaked in last stretch of campaign – report

According to Channel 12, after dithering over how to handle the struggling Jewish Home leader, the opposition chief now aims to deprive her of even ‘a single right-wing voter’

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

In the final stretch of the campaign ahead of the November 1 election, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to go hard after Jewish Home and its leader Ayelet Shaked and ensure she does not pass the electoral threshold, according to a Sunday report.

Netanyahu’s plan is to ensure “that Shaked is not left with a single right-wing voter,” Channel 12 news reported on the thinking in the Likud leader’s inner circle.

The report said the coming days will see Likud launch an all-out assault on the interior minister with the goal of voiding her support on the right.

Shaked has been seen as a conundrum for Netanyahu as he seeks to secure at least 61 seats in the Knesset and ensure his return to power. Though she has said she will back him for prime minister, Shaked and Jewish Home are polling far below the 3.25% electoral threshold. Still, she has so far refused to quit the race. Likud fears the loss of critical right-wing votes if her party is knocked out, and has been debating whether to try to help her past the threshold or to deprive her of all support.

According to Channel 12, the party has now settled on the latter tactic.

The Netanyahu-led right-wing religious bloc (comprised of Likud, Shas, United Torah Judaism and Religious Zionism-Otzma Yehudit) is currently polling at around 59-60 seats, and it is likely that the election could be determined by one or two seats.

Earlier this month Likud sources told the network that Netanyahu may come to regret efforts to sideline Shaked, as she may be the opposition leader’s only chance of forming a right-wing coalition of 61 Knesset seats.

A number of unnamed sources within the party said Netanyahu “is making mistakes in managing the [political] campaign and one of them is the conduct surrounding Shaked.”

Shaked herself has said she is Netanyahu’s only chance at winning back the premiership.

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked arrives for a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on October 2, 2022. (Amit Shabi/Flash90/Pool)

Shaked is Netanyahu’s “only chance to reach 61 [seats],” the sources told Channel 12 of the Jewish Home leader, who has served as interior minister since last year in a short-lived, broad government coalition formed by Naftali Bennett who then headed the Yamina party, with Shaked as his number two.

Bennett handed control of Yamina to Shaked after announcing he would take a break from politics following his coalition’s collapse this summer. Bennett serves as alternate prime minister in the caretaker government with Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid as prime minister, as per their coalition agreement.

Shaked briefly teamed up with the Derech Eretz faction to form the Zionist Spirit alliance, but the platform collapsed in mid-September amid dire polling and disagreements over Shaked’s willingness to potentially sit in a hard-right government led by Netanyahu.

As leader of the Jewish Home party she has requested forgiveness for joining the broad coalition last year and pledged to back Netanyahu for premier.

Likud chief and opposition leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the media in Tel Aviv, October 3, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The Yamina party was badly damaged by its time in power. Bennett’s decision to partner with left-wing parties and the Islamist Ra’am faction in the coalition last year gave Israel a functioning government after a series of inconclusive elections, but some of the right-wing party’s voters were unhappy with the move, and three of its Knesset members quit the coalition.

Netanyahu is “letting family pressure decide,” the Likud sources told Channel 12 on Sunday, hinting at the long-rumored bad blood between Sara Netanyahu and Shaked, who began her career as a staffer for Netanyahu in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Sara Netanyahu is said to have vetoed efforts to bring Shaked into the Likud party in the 2019 elections. In bombshell recordings aired in May 2021, Shaked described Netanyahu and his wife Sara as “dictators” and “tyrants” with a “lust for power.”

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