Michael Ben Ari (R390).
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
MKs Michael Ben-Ari and Arieh Eldad of the National Union plan to break off from
their party and run as an independent list, after talks with their faction
chairman Ya’acov Katz broke down on Saturday night.
The National Union is
a joint list made up of four parties: Tkuma, which includes MKs Katz and Uri
Ariel; Hatikva, led by Eldad; Eretz Yisrael Shelanu, represented by Ben-Ari; and
Moledet, which does not have any seats in the Knesset. According to a Jerusalem
Post\Smith Research poll, the party would maintain its current four seats in the
Ben-Ari and Eldad, who have the third and fourth spot on
the National Union list, respectively, cite ideological reasons for the split,
as well as a possible unity deal with Habayit Hayehudi and the fact that their
calls for a primary were rejected.
Though the MKs’ departure from the
party is not final, Eldad turned down overtures from Katz on Saturday
“Tkuma has only been representing itself and not the entire
National Union in negotiations to run in a joint list with Habayit Hayehudi,” a
source close to Eldad said.
“Katz has said in interviews that he isn’t
committed to running with Eldad and Ben-Ari.”
Right-wing activist and
Ben- Ari’s spokesman Itamar Ben- Gvir said that “Habayit Hayehudi does not
really want us, and we have a clear ideology that we cannot give up for a unity
deal. We don’t just want to warm a seat in the Knesset; we want to serve our
According to Ben-Gvir, Ben- Ari and Eldad plan to get votes not
only from settlements, but also from underprivileged neighborhoods in south Tel
Aviv, Or Akiva and Netanya.
“A lot of people in the neighborhoods are
with us on two issues: infiltrators and Arabs,” he said. “These are voters who
are disappointed by [Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu] and
Ben-Gvir cited internal polls that show Ben-Ari and Eldad passing
the 2-percent election threshold as an independent list, though a senior
National Union source said that statistic was within the margin of
A source close to Katz called Ben-Gvir and Eldad’s threats “a
power play,” and accused the two of trying to pressure Katz through the press,
instead of directly to the National Union leader.