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Sa’ar registers new party, says it’ll back settlements and judicial reform

Former Likud lawmaker requests his slate be called ‘New Hope — Unity for Israel’; faction’s platform nearly identical to that of Derech Eretz, whose 2 MKs say they’ll join Sa’ar

Gideon Sa'ar visits Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem in Jerusalem on December 16, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Gideon Sa'ar visits Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem in Jerusalem on December 16, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Recently resigned lawmaker Gideon Sa’ar on Thursday officially registered his new party, after splitting from the ruling Likud party ahead of likely new elections.

A statement from Sa’ar’s office said he had requested the name “New Hope — Unity for Israel.”

The statement also published a list of the party’s aims, including backing West Bank settlements and reforming the judicial system, both causes championed by the Israeli right.

“Supporting settlement and agriculture in the Galilee and Negev, in Judea and Samaria, and along the eastern spine — from the Golan Heights, along the Jordan [River] and the Araba down to Eilat,” the statement said, using the biblical names for the West Bank.

Sa’ar is an opponent of a two-state solution with the Palestinians, and ran to the right of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his unsuccessful bid for the Likud leadership last year.

Gideon Sa’ar, right, visits the West Bank area known as E1 near Ma’ale Adumim, on December 10, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The party will also be committed to the “realization of the natural and historic rights of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel”; improving schools and minimizing educational gaps; supporting a free market company with “a fair promise of opportunity for all”; and upholding Israel’s “values as the national state of the Jewish people, which safeguards human rights and practices equal individual rights.”

Some of the language in the platform was nearly identical to the campaign planks of the minor Derech Eretz faction, whose two MKs Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel announced last week they would link up with Sa’ar.

The two were followed this week by popular MK Yifat Shasha-Biton, who became the first Likud lawmaker to defect to New Hope. Hebrew media reports indicated she would be No. 2 on Sa’ar’s slate.

A poll aired Tuesday evening signaled Sa’ar was enjoying a significant boost in popularity following his decision last week to leave Likud and resign from the Knesset, after unveiling his intention to challenge Netanyahu for the premiership.

The Channel 12 survey showed New Hope scoring just six Knesset seats fewer than Likud, while fellow right-wing rival Naftali Bennett’s Yamina and Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White both lose ground.

MK Yifat Shasha-Biton visits the coronavirus ward at Ziv Medical Center in the northern city of Safed on December 3, 2020. (David Cohen/Flash90)

The New Hope party would receive 21 seats in the 120-member parliament, according to the poll, which was conducted before Shasha-Biton announced her plan to join the party but asked respondents about a scenario in which she was on Sa’ar’s ticket.

The poll predicted 27 seats for Likud; 14 for Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid-Telem; 13 for Yamina, 11 for the mostly Arab Joint List; eight each for the Shas and United Torah Judaism parties — both Haredi; and six apiece for Blue and White, Yisrael Beytenu and Meretz.

If proven correct, the poll would mean the path to any party forming a new government would be rather difficult, as the right-wing and religious parties of Likud, Yamina, Shas and UTJ would only make up 56 seats and a center-right bloc of New Hope, Yamina, Yisrael Beytenu, Blue and White and Yesh Atid-Telem would combine for 60. Sixty-one seats are needed to form a coalition.

Netanyahu could form a government if Sa’ar’s party were to join him, but the prime minister’s arch-rival claims to have no such plans. Though others have vowed not to sit with Netanyahu in the past only to reverse course, the enmity between the two runs deep.

Shasha-Biton’s decision to join with Sa’ar came as the Knesset appeared on course to dissolve by the middle of next week, amid a failure to pass a state budget. If elections are called, the fourth in two years, they will likely be held in March.

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