Yamina’s Abir Kara parts ways with Shaked’s Zionist Spirit

Shaked claims former Yamina MK leaves due to squabble over list position, while Kara says split is over ‘values and economic policies’

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked (R) and then Yamina MK Abir Kara present their plan to reduce the bureaucratic burden on small businesses, May 1, 2022. (Mark Neiman/GPO)
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked (R) and then Yamina MK Abir Kara present their plan to reduce the bureaucratic burden on small businesses, May 1, 2022. (Mark Neiman/GPO)

Knesset member Abir Kara announced Friday he was leaving the Zionist Spirit party, a new alliance of his party, Yamina, and the Derech Eretz faction.

Kara said that he notified Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, the head of Zionist Spirit, of his decision to leave Yamina. Shaked and Kara, however, offered differing stories on the reason for the lawmaker’s departure.

Explaining his decision to leave, Kara wrote that “it became clear to me that in the party’s new structure, there will be no room for the values or economic policies I believe in.” Kara, a business owner who has long championed measures to support self-employed and entrepreneurial Israelis, added that he would be announcing his political future in the next few days.

Shaked, however, issued a statement on Friday saying that Kara was notified by her that he was no longer part of the party’s Knesset slate “due to his demand to be placed fourth on the list.”

According to the merger agreement between Shaked and Derech Eretz head Yoaz Hendel, the first and third slots on the party’s Knesset slate are reserved for Yamina MKs and the second and fourth for Derech Eretz MKs.

The current Zionist Spirit slate has Shaked in the first spot, followed by Hendel, then newcomer religious settler Amitai Porat, followed by Derech Eretz’s Zvi Hauser.

MK Abir Kara, left, seen with then Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (right) and Foreign Affairs Minister Yair Lapid (center) during a plenum session and a vote on the state budget at the Knesset plenum in Jerusalem on November 4, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

Spots lower on the list are seen as unlikely to enter the Knesset, as Zionist Spirit has struggled to poll above the 3.25% electoral threshold needed to enter Knesset in November. Managing to cross the threshold would grant the party four seats.

Announcing his departure, Shaked said that Kara had led important initiatives for the self-employed over the past year and that the “Zionist Spirit party will continue to fight for a free market and against regulation and the rising cost of living.”

Kara had been one of the Yamina MKs who remained loyal to then-prime minister Naftali Bennett as the faction splintered while the coalition struggled. With his departure — after the exit of Shirly Pinto earlier this week and of Matan Kahana earlier this month to the National Unity Party — Shaked and Yomtob Kalfon remain the only Yamina MKs still with the party.

Shaked and Hendel announced they were joining forces on July 27, vowing to reach across the aisle politically but not cooperate with Arab parties.

Standing side by side after inking a merger deal, Shaked said the new alliance would work for a broad national Zionist government, one that would likely include Likud and its leader Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Only a vote for the Zionist spirit will ensure a broad national Zionist government,” Shaked, who is interior minister, announced to activists at the time.

Ayelet Shaked, right, holds a press conference with Yoaz Hendel to announce their Zionist Spirit party at Kfar Maccabiah in Ramat Gan, July 27, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Shaked and Hendel both helped lead Israel’s most diverse coalition through a rocky year, during which the political experiment united eight parties across the right, left, center and Arab political corners on the promise of ousting longtime premier Netanyahu, but ultimately succumbed to ideological divisions on security and nationalist issues.

Derech Eretz was formerly part of New Hope, but split off when the party joined up with Blue and White to form the new National Unity party in advance of the November 1 elections, set after Bennett drew the curtains on his government in June. Bennett later said he would not run in the upcoming election, handing the party’s reigns to Shaked.

Carrie Keller-Lynn contributed to this report.

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