Yamina MK Pinto, senior official reject joining Shaked’s Zionist Spirit

Knesset’s first deaf member vows to keep fighting for disabled rights; former Yamina director-general Shirley Weinstein also confirms she won’t enlist in new right-wing party

Shirley Pinto communicates with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett during a swearing-in ceremony of new parliamentarians at the Knesset in Jerusalem on June 16, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Shirley Pinto communicates with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett during a swearing-in ceremony of new parliamentarians at the Knesset in Jerusalem on June 16, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Two key right-wing allies of Ayelet Shaked announced Wednesday that they would not join her fledgling Zionist Spirit party Wednesday, dealing a blow to the interior minister’s attempts to jumpstart her re-election bid after the collapse of Yamina.

Yamina MK Shirly Pinto, the first deaf member of Knesset and former Yamina director-general Stella Weinstein said separately that they were not following Shaked to Zionist Spirit.

“After talks with Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, we agreed that I will not run for Knesset as part of the Zionist Spirit,” Pinto wrote in a statement.

A trailblazer in pushing for improvements to the welfare of Israel’s disabled population, Pinto said she would “continue to advance the cause of those with disabilities in Israeli society.”

She made a name pushing for translucent masks throughout the coronavirus pandemic, to allow Israel’s deaf population to continue to communicate through lip reading.

Pinto also made headlines in December when she arrived at the Knesset plenum just six days after giving birth in an effort to support the coalition, which maintained a precarious one-vote majority. Pinto voted while holding her newborn.

She did not announce future political plans but reportedly met with Prime Minister Yair Lapid about possibly joining his center-left Yesh Atid party.

Yamina MK Shirly Pinto brings her new baby to the Knesset on December 15, 2021 (Noam Moskowitz/Knesset)

Shaked praised Pinto for her “professional and authentic” work representing people with disabilities.

Weinstein also confirmed she would have no involvement with Zionist Spirit, after having resigned her post with the right-wing Yamina earlier this year.

The party of former prime minister Naftali Bennett has all but fallen apart over the past several months, with several of its lawmakers defecting from the government or threatening to do so amid pressure over its alliance with left-wing and Arab parties.

Last week, Shaked and the two-MK Derech Eretz party announced they were banding together to form Zionist Spirit and would compete for Yamina’s former voters.

Interior Minister and head of the Yamina party Ayelet Shaked, right, holds a press conference with Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel of Derech Eretz at Hamacabia Village in Ramat Gan, on July 27, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Launching the Zionist Spirit party last week, Shaked told voters that the new party’s aspiration is to end “polarization” and narrow coalitions resting on “extremists” by building a broad, Zionist government with both Likud and the center-left.

Of Yamina’s seven MKs, only Abir Kara and Yomtob Kalfon have not yet said whether they will seek to join up with Zionist Spirit or not.

A poll late last month showed the party hovering at around four seats, the threshold for entering the Knesset.

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