Shaked agrees to run as leader of Jewish Home, days after split with Zionist Spirit

Interior minister signs deal three days after blowup with Yoaz Hendel that ended short-lived alliance; if move finalizes, party likely to support Netanyahu for PM

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a former political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked and Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel at a state memorial ceremony for former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, at Mount Herzl Cemetery in Jerusalem, July 10, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked and Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel at a state memorial ceremony for former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, at Mount Herzl Cemetery in Jerusalem, July 10, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Yamina party leader Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked announced on Tuesday that she had signed an agreement with the Jewish Home party for a “joint run” in November’s elections, just days after blowing up her Zionist Spirit partnership with Yoaz Hendel.

Shaked and Jewish Home’s current leader, Yossi Brodny, agreed to run their parties together under the Jewish Home name. The intention will be finalized only after approval from Jewish Home’s central committee, according to Shaked’s spokesperson. Sources close to the issue said they expected pushback from some Jewish Home decisionmakers, a number of whom oppose unification with Shaked.

“I am happy that we succeeded in rebuilding a home for religious Zionism and for the responsible right in Israel,” Shaked said in a statement announcing the deal with Brodny.

Hendel and Shaked parted ways over a disagreement over whether to join a narrow government under Benjamin Netanyahu — if a unity government proved impossible — as an alternative to sending Israel to a sixth election. Zionist Spirit had also consistently been polling below the electoral threshold necessary to enter Knesset.

Until she split with Hendel in the early hours of Sunday morning, Shaked had pushed for a broad “unity” government. In the days since, Shaked has said she is “coming home” to the right, and with her Tuesday statement, completed her rhetorical shift to a right-wing government.

“We’ll work together to form a broad, right-wing and stable government,” Shaked said of her new partnership with Brodny.

Shaked explicitly said she would likely lend her support to Netanyahu following the elections, while speaking to a convention of the Association of Municipal Engineers on Monday.

“I support a broad government, but I will probably recommend Netanyahu. I will recommend whoever has the most seats, and whoever has the best chance of forming a government,” she said.

After elections, each party submits a recommendation to the president as to who should form the next government as its prime minister. The party head with the most seats behind a recommendation is generally granted the mandate to try to cobble together a coalition.

Brodny affirmed his readiness to support Netanyahu as prime minister, speaking to Army Radio shortly after the Tuesday morning unification announcement.

“We will recommend whoever leads the largest party on the right — that’s likely Benjamin Netanyahu,” Brodny said, although he added that “we’re for a unity government.”

Under the agreement, Army Radio reported that Shaked’s Yamina party — which she inherited in tatters when former prime minister Naftali Bennett bowed out of the upcoming election — will take the first, third, fifth, sixth, and eighth spots on the Jewish Home slate. Brodny will sit in the second spot and take the fourth and seventh.

Shaked appears to be courting Yamina’s national religious base with her return to Jewish Home, after her strategy of partnering with non-Orthodox Hendel and trying to appeal to the broader right-wing vote did not bear fruit. A third of Yamina voters identified as national religious at the 2021 election (the rest were traditional or secular; Shaked too is not Orthodox).

Brodny congratulated Shaked on her “push for this partnership” and hailed the joint slate as a “new path for the national religious public and the right in Israel.”

Brodny has served as the mayor of the central city of Givat Shmuel since 2008, a position that he told Army Radio on Tuesday that he would remain in during his Knesset run. He was elected head of Jewish Home earlier this year. Until now, he had not yet attracted a compelling figure to his electoral slate.

On Tuesday, estranged Yamina MK Idit Silman’s resignation from the Knesset will come into effect. The next on Yamina’s 2021 candidate list, Roni Sassover, resigned her position, and Orna Shtarkman is expected to fill her lawmaking role until elections. It’s unclear whether Shtarkman, a member of Nahariya’s city council and tenth on Yamina’s 2021 roster, will have a role in the Jewish Home run.

A united Jewish Home slate is polling in the mid-2% range, according to Channel 14. However, a source close to Brodny told The Times of Israel that according to internal polling it could pull between 3.2% and 4.0% of the electorate. The poll included more responses than usual from citizens above age 70, who are less likely to answer internet-based surveys and are a significant percentage of Jewish Home’s base, according to the source.

Shaked helped Bennett revive Jewish Home in 2013. They both left in 2018 to form the New Right party ahead of the April 2019 election, and failed to pass the electoral threshold.

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