Bayit Yehudi leaders Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked announced that they were leaving the party and forming a new religious and secular partnership that will run in the April 9 election, prompting reactions from Culture Minister Miri Regev and former defense minister Avigdor Liberman.
Regev Culture Minister Miri Regev attacked the new party, Hayemin HeHadash in an interview with Army Radio Sunday morning.
"Naftali Bennett has joined the Left, after leaking nonstop from the cabinet meetings," Regev said. "He and Ayelet Shaked did not learn the lessons of the 1992 elections: they are saboteurs firing their weapons inside the tank. It is an imitation Likud."
In response, the Hayemin Hahadash spokesperson said: "Miri Regev was the enthusiastic spokeswoman for the disengagement from Gaza, snickering while thousands of Jewish families were pulled from their homes in Gush Katif and their lands given over to Israel's enemies."
Liberman referred to both Hayemin HeHadash party, and former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz's Hosen L'Yisrael, in an interview with Army Radio Sunday morning.
"Gantz and Naftali Bennett are nothing more than parties of air," Liberman said. "We will continue long after they are gone."
During the announcement on Saturday in a press conference in Tel Aviv after years of contemplating the move, Bennett and Shaked announced their party – Hayemin Hehadash – the new Right. Bennett and Shaked vowed to take votes away from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party.
“We greatly appreciate Netanyahu and his contributions over the years to Israel but the real Right, the whole nationalist camp, cannot be captives of one person,” Bennett said. “With Hayemin Hehadash, Israel is winning again.”
Bennett criticized Netanyahu for calling an election a month after saying that the security situation made holding elections irresponsible. He also claimed that the prime minister did not take his former party’s concerns about the threat from Hamas in the Gaza Strip seriously.
“The influence of Bayit Yehudi has been lost and will not return,” Bennett lamented. “The prime minister thinks religious Zionists are in his pocket and no matter how much he harms the religious Zionists they will continue to go along with him.”
Bennett and Shaked will formally break off from the Bayit Yehudi faction, taking along with them MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli to the new party, because three MKs were needed to legally leave a faction of eight and take party funding with them. The Knesset House Committee will hold a meeting on Sunday to authorize their request. Hayemin Hehadash will alternate between religious and secular candidates on its list.
“We did not succeed in Bayit Yehudi in raising the banner of real partnership between religious and secular,” Shaked said.
The party will firmly oppose the creation of a Palestinian state. Shaked called top Bayit Yehudi activists and urged them to leave and support her new party instead.
The remnants of the Bayit Yehudi faction convened a late-night meeting on Saturday night to consider its future. The party will temporarily be run by a committee.
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, the head of the National Union Party – which ran with Bayit Yehudi in recent elections – said he thought Bennett and Shaked had made a mistake. He vowed to strengthen religious Zionism by merging Bayit Yehudi and the National Union.
“If Bennett and Shaked want to lead the country, I will take it upon myself to lead religious Zionism,” said MK Bezalel Smotrich, who intends to run against Ariel to head the National Union.
The Likud responded that those who want to prevent the Left from taking over need to vote for Netanyahu’s party. The Likud warned that by splintering the Right, Bennett and Shaked had not learned the lessons of the lost 1992 election that led to the Oslo peace process “disaster.”
Likud leaders mocked Bennett’s decision. MK David Bitan said that “after undermining Netanyahu’s government, Bennett decided to attack Likud in a new costume.”
Zionist Union MK Stav Shaffir scoffed at the new party, saying, “I won’t interfere over how the extreme Right divides up its votes.” Her statement poked fun at Netanyahu’s reaction to the new party being formed by former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz.
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