Just a week after its lawmakers were sworn in as Knesset members, Ayelet Shaked’s right-wing Yamina alliance officially split into two separate factions on Thursday, as it said it would do before last month’s election
The Knesset Arrangements Committee unanimously approved the move, which will see the faction break up into the New Right, made up of Yamina leader Ayelet Shaked, her long-time political partner Naftali Bennett and freshman MK Matan Kahana; and the Jewish Home-National Union alliance of Education Minister Rafi Peretz, Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich, and MKs Motti Yogev and Ofir Sofer.
The alliance had announced it would break into separate factions minutes after exit polls for the September elections showed the party comfortably sliding into the Knesset. In September, Shaked indicated that she didn’t support dissolving Yamina, citing “what’s right” for the country, but said it was important to uphold campaign promises.
Speaking at Thursday’s morning’s committee meeting, MK Kahana said that the decision was “in accordance with the promise made to voters on the eve of the elections.”
The Knesset Arrangements Committee had been scheduled to convene on Sunday in order to approve the Yamina breakup, but the meeting was canceled after the alliance of right-wing parties failed to provide a representative who would explain the move to the panel. While some in the party told the national religious Srugim news site that the delay was merely technical, others said it had to do with internal disagreements over whether the breakup was at all necessary.
Shaked’s New Right, the National Union and the Jewish Home came together ahead of the election to run on a joint slate as Yamina to ensure they all cleared the 3.25% electoral threshold.
Shaked and Bennett split from the Jewish Home in December 2018 to form the New Right in a bid to appeal to relatively liberal religious nationalist voters. The two had hoped to pull votes away from both Likud and the Union of Right-Wing Parties — a faction comprising the Jewish Home, the National Union and the far-right Otzma Yehudit Party — but the maneuver failed and New Right did not pass the electoral threshold in the April 9 elections.
Ahead of September’s vote, the Yamina alliance formed and, in an attempt to broaden voter appeal, named Shaked — a controversial but very popular politician — as its leader.
However, a review of the New Right’s party bylaws by The Times of Israel partner site Zman Yisrael last month revealed that Bennett remains the New Right’s chairman, despite Shaked being publicly presented as its leader throughout the campaign and being placed at No. 1 on Yamina’s Knesset slate.
The reason for the ambiguity appears to be part of the party’s effort to maintain Shaked’s status as head of Yamina during the election campaign and defer any discussion on the faction’s political future.