The Zehut party announced on Sunday that it had agreed in principle to a joint Knesset run with the New Right party in the upcoming elections, but put forward an ultimatum asserting that the merger would not be made official unless open leadership primaries were held for the top slot on the joint list.
“To our understanding, at the top of a united list, it is fitting to place the person who brought the most votes in the last elections,” the Zehut party said in a statement.
“[Zehut chairman Moshe] Feiglin brought 120,000, and [New Right chairs] [Naftali] Bennett and [Ayelet] Shaked brought 140,000 from their joint leadership. Thus Feiglin brought more voters [on his own], and it is fitting that he head the list,” the pro-cannabis legalization, libertarian party continued. “Nevertheless, we have agreed to give the decision to the public and to hold open primaries. Unfortunately, we have not reached an understanding on the subject up to this point, and time is running out.”
Citing the need to provide candidates enough time to organize, Zehut said it would give the New Right until Friday to respond to its ultimatum. Otherwise, the party said it would only agree to a merger if Feiglin sits at the top of the list.
Responding to Zehut’s demand, the New Right issued a statement saying its chairman Bennett “is building a liberal right-wing bloc that combines all those who believe in a free economy, in Judaism without coercion and in the integrity of the country. Anyone who sees himself as a liberal rightist is invited to join.”
While both Bennett and Shaked have declared that they intend to run in the upcoming September elections, the latter has yet to announce the vehicle for her candidacy.
Polls have indicated that the former justice minister — who left the Jewish Home party last December along with Bennett to form the New Right — is one of the most popular politicians in her camp. She is widely reported to be deciding between running as the head of the New Right with Bennett as her deputy or as a No. 1 or No. 2 in the Union of Right-Wing Parties.
It is likely that Zehut and New Right would prefer to wait until Shaked makes a decision before they move forward with a merger.
The two parties share many of the same views on economic matters as well as issues involving religious and state, and both slates competed over many of the same libertarian-leaning voters in the last election.
While Feiglin had campaigned in the last election on refusing to characterize his party as belonging to either the right or the left, after failing to cross the electoral threshold he said Zehut had learned its lesson and would no longer shy away from boasting its right-wing credentials.