New Right party co-chair Ayelet Shaked has reportedly held several meetings recently with Itamar Ben Gvir, a senior member of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, although both are remaining tight-lipped about the content of their conversations.
The most recent meeting was at Shaked’s home in Tel Aviv last week, and the two have remained in “close contact since,” Channel 12 news reported Sunday.
Shaked, whose party did not pass the electoral threshold in the April elections, has said that she plans to run again in the coming September 17 elections but has not declared her platform for doing so. A popular former justice minister, Shaked has strong backing to lead the Union of Right-Wing Parties — a partnership of three factions formed before the last elections.
So far, however, the current URWP leader, Education Minister Rafi Peretz, has refused to give up his spot during negotiations with Shaked to see her join the political grouping. A key sticking point is Peretz’s objection to secular Shaked leading the URWP, which draws its votes from national religious Israelis.
Shaked’s talks with Ben-Gvir could be aimed at achieving the first stages of a broader cooperation among right-wing parties that would give added weight to her bid to lead the combined campaign, Channel 12 said.
Shaked declined to respond to the report.
Ben Gvir said in a statement, “I have excellent relations with Ayelet Shaked, we have had good meetings, but I don’t intend to publicize their content. Otzma Yehudit is busy these days with exploring connections to save the Jewish people.”
The URWP was formed as a collaboration between Jewish Home, the National Union, and Otzma Yehudit parties. Shaked had left Jewish Home together with fellow party member Naftali Bennett to found and co-lead the New Right, which fell just short of entering the Knesset. Bennett has already declared he will run again with the New Right.
Last Tuesday, Peretz, who heads Jewish Home, and Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich, the National Union leader, renewed their agreement for the two parties to run together in the coming elections as the URWP. They also called on other right-wing parties to join them, saying in a joint statement that unity among national religious parties is needed to “in order to maximize our electoral potential and prevent the wasting of votes.”
The far-right Otzma Yehudit said that it had been excluded from the alliance but that it would consider joining if its candidates were given significant enough placement on the slate. A URWP party source said on Tuesday that Otzma was demanding the 3rd and 6th spots.
Knesset slates must be finalized by the end of July.