Bayit Yehudi will soon lead Israel, party leader Naftali Bennett said after the primary vote count ended on Thursday morning, putting faction chairwoman Ayelet Shaked – a secular woman – in first place.
“We made history,” he said. “We are clearly approaching the day in which Bayit Yehudi leads the country, because there is no other choice.”
On Thursday evening, Bennett spoke at a party event in Ramat Gan, repeating that “love of Israel is back in style.”
“There are those who think this land is occupied and we have to apologize for living in the land of our ancestors. They lost their way long ago,” he said. “The people of Israel want our national pride back, to hold our heads high, to stop apologizing.”
“Terrorists don’t deserve a country,” Bennett said, emphasizing that Bayit Yehudi is the only party that does not support a Palestinian state.
Both Bennett and Shaked came out against what they called the elites, especially the media, saying that they praised Labor’s list but not Bayit Yehudi’s.
“When people say we’re homophobes or I killed 100 Arabs 20 years ago in Kafr Kana [in southern Lebanon],” Bennett began, referring to recent media reports, “we’ll look them in the eye and say ‘love of Israel is back in style.’” The party leader was reelected with more than 90 percent of the vote, and will be followed on the candidates list by Construction Minister Uri Ariel, leader of Tekuma, a party running with Bayit Yehudi.
Next is Shaked, a close ally of Bennett, who received more votes than any other primary candidate and moved ahead of the first slot reserved for a woman.
She is followed by other incumbents: Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben-Dahan, Knesset Finance Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky and Senior Citizens Minister Uri Orbach.
Then, in the seventh spot, is Yinon Magal, a journalist appointed by Bennett to a reserved spot, MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli, Tekuma’s Bezalel Smotrich, MK Mordechai Yogev, Deputy Education Minister Avraham Wortzman, central committee member and Bennett confidant Nir Orbach and former IDF chief rabbi Avihai Ronzki, who is also close to Bennett.
The 14th spot goes to Orit Struck and the 15th is saved for a female candidate from Bayit Yehudi. The next woman on the list is Yehudit Shilat, who will skip over four men if she gets the slot.
However, sources say Bennett does not think Shilat, director of the Forum Takana against sexual abuse, promotes the image he wants for the party. Bennett may use his right to appoint two candidates to put a younger, less religiously stringent woman there instead.
Im Tirzu founder Ronen Shoval is in the 16th spot, which is less realistic in view of the polls, followed by another woman – either award-winning educator and Temple Mount activist Sarah Eliash, or Shilat if she is not in the 15th – and Tekuma’s Zvulun Kalfa.
“We have veterans, in whom the public showed trust, and new blood, which will refresh the party,” Bennett said of the candidates.
Shaked said she started her day with excellent news and is happy to make history as the first woman to win first place in Bayit Yehudi.
“We have a varied, Zionist, professional and values-driven list, and I am already looking forward to working with the MKs in the next Knesset. Together we will work for the Land of Israel and the people of Israel,” she said, thanking her supporters.
Later at the event, she said that “when I saw the results, I shouted ‘yes!’ not only because of myself, but because I think this is the best list we could pick.... You gave proof of the wisdom of crowds.”
The list has fewer secular people than Bennett had hoped for, in order to attract more secular voters, with only Shaked and Magal in the top 10. He backed Shoval and Danny Dayan, the prior chairman of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, but only the former has a reasonable chance of getting into the Knesset.
The Left strongly criticized the list, with MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) resorting to name-calling.
“Bennett is covering his ass with Shaked, who’s secular,” he said.
Gilon called Slomiansky a schnorrer, a Yiddish term for a freeloader or beggar, and Ariel a “settlement construction worker.”
“This is a movement that is trying to trick people, with minimum integrity. Only an Israeli-civil home like Meretz can stop the wave and protect the cornerstones of democracy,” he added.
According to Yesh Atid’s spokesman, “Bayit Yehudi chose an extreme list which would prefer to spend millions of shekels on a hill near Beit El or a road around an isolated settlement instead of on the Israeli middle class.”
He added the party “will continue to fight against the corrupt allocation of national resources and to represent the middle class by increasing support for Holocaust survivors, supporting young couples, increasing the education budget for all the children in Israel and helping lift elderly people out of poverty.”
MK Elazar Stern, a moderate religious-Zionist who is in Hatnua but is looking for a new political home, said he is sure that many religious-Zionists will look for a new political home after seeing the Bayit Yehudi list.
“Bayit Yehudi lost a real opportunity to change and present a more welcoming Judaism,” he said. “As a religious- Zionist, like many of my friends who hoped that something new was beginning [in Bayit Yehudi], I woke up to find something old.”