Yamina’s Kahana calls on Ayelet Shaked to rule out ‘narrow’ Netanyahu government

Deputy religious services minister advocates for wide coalition, says it would be ‘a grave mistake’ if his party leader awarded Netanyahu the premiership

Michael Horovitz is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel

Deputy Religious Affairs Minister MK Matan Kahana attends a discussion at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on June 15, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Deputy Religious Affairs Minister MK Matan Kahana attends a discussion at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on June 15, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Deputy Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana urged the Yamina party’s new leader Ayelet Shaked on Wednesday to declare herself opposed to the establishment of a narrow right-wing government led by Benjamin Netanyahu after the next election.

In an interview with Army Radio, Kahana challenged Shaked over her perceived openness to partnering with the Likud leader in a hard-right government after the next election.

Kahana called on Shaked to pledge not to join the former premier in such a coalition, and insisted that the electorate he represents wants an ideologically “broad government.”

“It would be a grave mistake if Ayelet Shaked gave him the 61st seat [in the next Knesset],” Kahana said, referring to the majority needed in the 120-seat parliament to form a government.

He said Netanyahu had wrought “bad things” upon the country.

Shaked took over Yamina’s party reins from former prime minister Naftali Bennett ahead of the November 2022 election. Bennett is currently serving as alternate prime minister in the transition government.

Recent polling projected that Yamina is set to fall under the 3.25 percent electoral threshold to enter the Knesset in the upcoming election, the fifth since 2019.

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with then minister of justice Ayelet Shaked in the Knesset on December 21, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Surveys have also indicated that the political crisis that has plagued Israel since 2019 could persist after the election, with neither the Netanyahu-led bloc, made up of right-wing, nationalist, and religious parties, nor the parties in the most recent coalition able to cobble together a government.

Netanyahu faces a series of corruption charges, a fact that has drawn together several ideologically diverse parties who staunchly oppose his return to the premiership.

Far-right MKs Itamar Ben Gvir (L) and Bezalel Smotrich at the Damascus Gate outside Jerusalem’s Old City on October 20, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

During his interview, Kahana took aim at Religious Zionism MK Bezalel Smotrich as a “divisive” figure in Israeli politics, claiming the far-right lawmaker, a staunch Netanyahu supporter, “doesn’t represent in any way the people that I know and represent.”

Kahana also boldly claimed that had he wanted a right-wing government, “it would have been established three weeks ago.”

His comments attracted immediate backlash from Smotrich’s party allies.

MK Simcha Rothman expressed disappointment that “a right-wing government was in our hands, one year ago, and also three weeks ago.”

“Those who dragged the State of Israel to a government of terror supporters, consciously and intentionally, were Shaked, Bennett, and Kahana. The public will judge,” Rothman charged, referencing the Arab Ra’am party, which has been accused by the right of supporting terror despite multiple denunciations of such acts.

MK Orit Strock directly blamed Kahana for instigating the upcoming elections and “abandoning the country to Yair Lapid,” referring to the terms of the previous coalition, which transferred the premiership to Lapid following the dissolution of the Knesset.

Meanwhile, Likud MK Yuli Edelstein, who recently withdrew his challenge to Netanyahu as party chair, dismissed the idea of the former prime minister remaining as Likud head “at any price.”

Likud MK Yuli Edelstein speaks at a conference in Herzliya, November 23, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

“We need to act according to the big picture and the interests of the movement and the national camp,” the former Knesset speaker told the Ynet news site, hinting that Netanyahu may be forced to step aside if he cannot amass 61 seats in the next election.

In addition, Edelstein would not confirm whether controversial Religious Zionism lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir would be appointed as a minister in a Likud-led government, simply saying, “If we had a similar ideology, we would probably be in the same party.”

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