Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz dropped out of the Habayit Hayehudi race on Monday night, backing MK Zevulun Orlev as party leader, a move that is likely to hurt third candidate Naftali Bennett.

The two said that, after three years of open animosity, they were inspired by Shas’s leadership triumvirate and decided to run Habayit Hayehudi together, inviting Bennett to join them.

Orlev and Herschkowitz said that, while the former will be the first person on the party’s list, should he win the November 6 primary, he will share all leadership responsibilities with the latter. As Herschkowitz has dropped out of the party primary entirely, those responsibilities could be either a ministerial position, should Habayit Hayehudi join the next coalition, or heading internal party affairs. The Habayit Hayehudi candidates refused to describe the details of their agreement.

Herschkowitz joked that, while he believes the party will grow to double- digits in the next Knesset, he does not think Orlev will be prime minister, and as such, only Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu can promise ministerial positions.

Before the press conference, Bennett ally Ayelet Shaked, who is running in the party primary, said “Herschkowitz was helped by Netanyahu, who is afraid of a strong, influential Habayit Hayehudi. They are trying to leave the party small and conflicted.”

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Bennett’s spokesman said the deal exemplifies “old politics with deals and giving out jobs,” and called it “sad that the only time in recent years that Orlev and Herschkowitz could talk to each other was when they tried to stop renewal within Habayit Hayehudi.”

Herschkowitz, however, denied that Netanyahu or his close adviser Natan Eshel were involved in the deal with Orlev.

“I want it to make it clear for everyone: The Prime Minister’s Office had no connection, direct or indirect, to our decision. Any other claim is just a spin,” Herschkowitz stated. “Trying to make Netanyahu mad at Habayit Hayehudi is a bad idea. We think he will be the prime minister, and we don’t think [Labor leader Shelly] Yacimovich or [former Kadima leader] Tzipi Lvini would be better than Netanyahu.”

At the same time, Herschkowitz insisted that “Habayit Hayehudi does not represent Netanyahu. We are not Likud number two, we are religious-Zionists.”

When asked if he made a deal with Herschkowitz out of concern that they would lose to Bennett, a newcomer to the party, Orlev said: “I am not afraid; I have an interest to protect [Habayit Hayehudi forbearer] National Religious Party values.

This is a fight for the future of the NRP.”

Should Bennett win, Orlev said he would accept it and stay in the party.

At the end of the press conference, Dr. Yehuda David, a former Bennett ally, said he moved to Herschkowitz and Orlev’s camp, because unity is essential for the national-religious camp.

“Something that stands on three legs is very stable,” David said, calling for Bennett to join the unity deal.

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