MK Bezalel Smotrich, No.2 in the Union of Right-Wing Parties, declared Thursday he is prepared to give up his position, and with it greatly reduce his chances of becoming a senior minister, for the sake of bringing nationalist parties together on a single slate for coming Knesset elections.
Smotrich, who in the past demanded to be appointed justice minister, urged all parties to the right of the Likud to unite in order to increase the number of seats they can win and better drive nationalist agendas, such as annexing and preventing an Israeli exit from the West Bank.
“In recent weeks, in the framework of the negotiations we held with Likud, we see how important it is that there be one big, strong party to the right of Likud to ensure there is no withdrawal from Judea and Samaria and that Israeli sovereignty be extended there,” he said, using the biblical names for the West Bank regions.
“Likud refused to commit to all of that in a coalition agreement,” Smotrich said at a youth conference in Givat Shmuel.
He called for relevant politicians to set aside past disagreements and “overcome their egos.”
“I announce here that I am the first to give up his place or office in order for this joint movement to succeed,” Smotrich said.
His remarks came as the various right-wing parties planning to run in the elections in September have been considering overcoming their differences in order to cooperate in the elections to maximize their chances at crossing the electoral threshold.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who failed to form a majority coalition after April’s elections, dissolved parliament at the end of May and called a fresh vote.
MK Rafi Peretz and his No. 2 Smotrich lead the Union of Right-Wing Parties, an amalgamation of the Jewish Home, National Union and Otzma Yehudit national religious parties which won five of the 120 Knesset seats in the April elections.
Last December, former education minister Naftali Bennett and former justice minister Ayelet Shaked left the Jewish Home in order to form and co-lead the New Right, which campaigned to the right of Likud on security issues, while representing what it referred to as a “secular-religious partnership.”
The New Right party fell just short of the Knesset threshold in the elections, but with the new vote scheduled for September 17, Bennett and Shaked are both hoping to return to parliament.
The New Right has announced that it will seek to form alliances with other parties in order to broaden its appeal. As part of that effort, it has entered into talks with Peretz and Smotrich’s URWP over the possibility of a merger.
However, there remains animosity between Jewish Home and Bennett over his leaving the party before the elections, which he justified at the time as being due to narrow-minded attitudes on the part of its spiritual leadership.
The URWP has reportedly offered Shaked the No. 2 spot on its slate if she joins — but on condition that she ditches Bennett.
Shaked is seen as more likely to accept Bennett’s reported offer to once again run with him in the New Right — but this time as the slate’s leader.
Talks between the parties to the right of Likud have been ongoing.
Among the options presented, in addition to a wholly unified list, has been a “technical bloc” that would be assured of passing the electoral threshold but would break apart into constituent parties immediately after the elections.