(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The political future of the national-religious Tekuma party headed by Construction Minister Uri Ariel was delicately poised Wednesday night, with a choice between Bayit Yehudi and the new political faction being formed by renegade Shas MK Eli Yishai expected to be made on Thursday.
Tekuma ran in the last election on a joint list with Bayit Yehudi, but Ariel frequently clashed with party chairman and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett and has been seeking alternative political options for the coming election.
One political source associated with Yishai’s new party, which will likely be called Yahad, told The Jerusalem Post
on Wednesday that Yishai and Tekuma are in “advanced talks” about a possible joint run for Knesset, while an official for Ariel said that the party could go either way.
But a source in Bayit Yehudi said that Ariel’s negotiations with Yishai were likely a bluff designed to raise the political price for Bayit Yehudi to keep Tekuma in the fold.
On Sunday night, Bennett’s camp proposed that Tekuma – the more rabbinically oriented party – receive four of the first 20 slots on a joint list.
The fourth person would be a candidate Bennett and Ariel chose together.
In addition, Ariel would be promised the list’s second ministerial slot if the party is in the next coalition.
Ariel was said to be seriously considering accepting Bennett’s offer Wednesday night.
Since one of Tekuma’s current four MKs, Deputy Religious Affairs Minister Eli Ben-Dahan, is now running in the Bayit Yehudi primary, Ariel is considering Betzalel Smotrich, the director of operations of Regavim, an NGO that seeks to ensure responsible, legal and accountable use of Israel’s national land.
Senior national-religious rabbis associated with Tekuma are, however, believed to be backing an alliance with Yishai. Rabbi Dov Lior, a leading figure in the more hardline national-religious sector, who is close with Ariel, said last week that Tekuma should abandon the alliance with Bayit Yehudi.
Sources close to Lior said on Wednesday that the rabbi was in close contact with Ariel and that it was likely that Tekuma would end up joining forces with Yishai.
Lior recently told his students that he had called Ariel and asked him to run on a list separate from Bayit Yehudi in order to preserve Tekuma’s identity.
The possibility of such a union was complicated on Tuesday night, however, when Yishai’s spiritual patron, haredi Rabbi Meir Mazuz, said it would be problematic for a woman to run on the party list.
The presence of MK Orit Struck on Tekuma’s electoral list posed a problem in the negotiations between the two parties, a spokesman for Yishai’s party acknowledged.
The Kipa news website reported on Wednesday that Tekuma party activists were pressuring Struck to give up her spot on the electoral list to ease the party’s alliance with Yishai.