Right-wing parties said to make progress toward joining forces in elections
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Right-wing parties said to make progress toward joining forces in elections

Jewish Home, National Union, New Right reportedly reach initial understandings, with Peretz or Shaked leading slate; New Right says it’s still early but report is ‘fake news’

Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked from the New Right party at an election campaign tour in central Jerusalem on January 23, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked from the New Right party at an election campaign tour in central Jerusalem on January 23, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Several right-wing parties have reached initial understandings regarding a potential joint run in the upcoming Knesset elections, a report said Wednesday morning. The New Right party immediately denied the report as “fake news.”

Jewish Home headed by Rafi Peretz and the National Union led by Bezalel Smotrich — which both ran in the previous elections as part of the Union of Right-Wing Parties (URWP) — are negotiating a union with Naftali Bennett’s New Right party which split from them some six months ago, the Kan public broadcaster reported.

However, the joint run will be in a “technical bloc,” which will enable the parties to split after the September elections, according to the report. The union is needed to pass the 3.25 percent electoral threshold, which in the April vote sunk New Right by a margin of fewer than 1,500 votes.

It has reportedly been agreed that Bennett will not be number one on the unified election slate. New Right will get between two and three spots in the top eight.

Additionally, Bennett won’t be able to veto a merge with the extremist Otzma Yehudit party, which ran as part of the URWP in the April vote, drawing widespread rebuke.

Left, Bezalel Smotrich (L) and Rafi Peretz posing after agreeing to form a joint Jewish Home National Union Knesset slate February 14, 2019. (Courtesy) Right, Otzma Yehudit party chair Michael Ben Ari (R) seen with Itamar Ben Gvir at the party’s inaugural election conference in Petach Tikva, on December 24, 2014, (Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90)

The report said details that haven’t been worked out yet are where and how Bennett’s political partner Ayelet Shaked would be placed on the slate. Shaked could end up leading the merged party, although Peretz’s chances are said to be higher. Peretz is the current URWP leader, with Smotrich No. 2.

It also isn’t clear whether Shaked will receive a spot belonging to New Right or to Jewish Home.

Bennett’s New Right denied the report: “Bennett is running with full force in the New Right. He believes in the party’s values of cooperation between religious and secular and inclusive Judaism. Bennett doesn’t rule out a technical bloc, but there too there are moral lines he won’t cross.

“Anyway, it is very early to be talking about this since the slates will only be presented in two months,” the party added, referring to the August 2 deadline.

The party later issued a statement saying the report was “fake news.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday fired Shaked as justice minister and Bennett as education minister.

MK Bezalel Smotrich of the Union of Right-Wing Parties arrives at a Jerusalem Day event at Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem, June 2, 2019. (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)

Smotrich, who has been campaigning for months to become the next justice minister, hours later drew outrage when he said, “We want the justice portfolio because we want to restore the Torah justice system.” Smotrich then doubled down on his position on Monday morning, telling Kan public radio that “the Jewish people is a special people that needs to live according to the Torah.”

On Wednesday morning, Bennett defended Smotrich and said the attacks on him were “political, and I have no intention of joining them.”

However, he added that New Right rejects a “halacha state” and supports a Jewish state while opposing religious coercion.

“The State of Israel will not be a halacha [Jewish religious law] state,” Netanyahu tweeted Monday, amid an uproar over Smotrich’s remarks.

Likud sources said there was no chance that Smotrich would be appointed justice minister after his remarks, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported Tuesday. Later in the day, the pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom daily reported that the premier had walked that back and that his associates were denying the earlier report.

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