(photo credit: INIMAGE)
The furor over soccer legend Eli Ohana’s appointment to the Bayit Yehudi list continued late Tuesday night in a meeting between party leader Naftali Bennett and its MKs.
Bennett presented Ohana’s addition as a fait accompli, sparking outrage among the MKs.
Ohana, a former Betar Jerusalem star and coach of the National Under-19 Team, will be in the party’s top 10. Past statements supporting the Gaza disengagement, from which Ohana distanced himself this week, drew hostility from the Bayit Yehudi base.
Knesset Finance Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky read text messages from angry Gaza evacuees to the faction.
One such evacuee, MK Zvulun Kalfa, of Tekuma, a party running on the Bayit Yehudi list, withdrew his candidacy Tuesday morning, following the announcement.
Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben-Dahan warned that Rabbi Eli Sadan, the founder of a pre-induction “military yeshiva academy,” said that if Ohana is not taken off the list, he will go from yeshiva to yeshiva telling students not to vote Bayit Yehudi.
Many viewed Ohana’s place on the list as a transparent gesture to bring in Sephardic and secular voters, and dampen talk in the secular press of racism and elitism among religious-Zionists.
In light of Bennett praising Ohana for having grown up in a large, poor family and working from a young age to support them, MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli said to the party leader: “Have you ever asked me what kind of house I grew up in? I had nine siblings, too.
“For two years we were out there working for you, and this is what you give us in return?” The MKs were also upset that people who won seats via the Bayit Yehudi primary will now be bumped further down because of Ohana.
Deputy Education Minister Avi Wortzman called for the former soccer star to be put in the unrealistic 17th spot on the party list.
Another MK said perhaps they should have made a bigger fuss when journalist Yinon Magal was appointed to the list last month, before the party primary, and then this would not have happened.
“You’re forgetting our party’s roots,” Bayit Yehudi secretary-general and Knesset candidate Nir Orbach, who is close to Bennett, warned him.
Bennett responded that, in order to attract a broader public to the party, something new was necessary.