MKs Arieh Eldad and Michael Ben-Ari officially broke off from the National Union
Tuesday, forming a new party called Strong Israel.
After months of
infighting in the National Union, mostly about whether the faction should hold a
primary or not, Ben-Ari and Eldad first announced their intention to run on
their own in October.
The National Union is a joint list made up of four
parties: Tkuma, which includes MKs Ya’acov 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 but had the rights to the “National Union”
name in the 18th Knesset.
In recent weeks, the faction’s structure
changed, with Ben-Ari quitting Eretz Yisrael Shelanu and Moledet giving the
rights to the name “National Union” to Tekuma.
In addition, National
Union leader Katz was replaced by Ariel, with the former bumped to the second
slot on the party’s list for the 19th Knesset.
Eldad and Ben-Ari
negotiated with Tekuma over the last month to no avail, leading them to announce
the formation of Strong Israel, Otzma L’Israel in Hebrew, on Tuesday in a press
conference with right-wing activists Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben-Gvir, who
previously planned to form a party with Ben-Ari.
Strong Israel is running
under the slogan “no obligations, no privileges.” Eldad will lead the party,
with Ben- Ari second, followed by Marzel, Ben-Gvir and Israel Land Fund founder
Eldad cited a “vacuum” in the Right after Yisrael Beytenu
merged with Likud and “sits on the same list as [Intelligence Agencies Minister]
Dan Meridor” while Aryeh Deri is “pulling Shas to the Left to the days of
“There’s a need for an ideological Right that will say things that
were forgotten: No obligations, no rights. The Land of Israel belongs to the
People of Israel.”
“[Minister without Portfolio] Bennie Begin is proud of
transferring money to Arab towns. Do they pay property tax? Do they pay taxes at
all?” Ben-Ari asked, adding that Strong Israel will only join the coalition if
it is loyal to the Land of Israel.
When asked about the two MKs’
reputation for hating Arabs, Eldad responded: “A Jewish majority does not mean
hating others. I think the Land of Israel belongs to the People of Israel and
not the Mamluks [historical reference to slave soldiers of Muslim countries]. We
are fighting for the Jewish character [of Israel], and saying we hate others is
Eldad made a dig at Katz and Ariel, saying: “Our friends in
Tekuma joined the National Religious Party, and that is their right. We’re sure
they’ll take care of the religious-Zionist sector,” in reference to the planned
National Union- Habayit Hayehudi joint list for the next Knesset.
have a new list for all of the people of Israel,” Eldad added. “Our party is not
sectorial and deals with real problems.”
A senior National Union source
pointed out that, in the last election, Ben-Ari joined the faction two hours
before the deadline to submit party lists, and he is sure the two MKs will be a
part of the joint list with Habayit Hayehudi.
“Our friends’ departure and
the formation of a new party helps the Left, because tens of thousands of votes
will be lost, bringing us back to the days of Oslo,” the National Union
spokesman said. “We worked to unite the religious and nationalist public, and it
is unfortunate that our friends oppose unity with Habayit Hayehudi.”
spokesman added that Ben-Ari and Eldad did not learn the lessons of history,
which show splitting up parties bring “victims of peace.”