Bayit Yehudi, National Union and Otzma Yehudit agreed to run together, pending authorization by the Bayit Yehudi’s central committee on Wednesday evening.
“The central message is not to lose any votes,” National Union leader Bezalel Smotrich told Kan radio.
The parties said they plan to form a “technical bloc” whereby Bayit Yehudi and National Union will be a joint faction, as they have been for the past two Knessets, and Otzma will operate independently. Otzma will take the fifth and eighth places on the list, the first of which is realistic now that the three parties are running together.
The purpose of the bloc is so that Otzma’s votes, which are worth two to three Knesset seats but don’t reach the 3.25% electoral threshold, expand the right-wing bloc in the elections.
Otzma is led by students of Rabbi Meir Kahane, including former MK Michael Ben-Ari, Hebron activist Baruch Marzel, Benzi Gopstein, who leads an organization opposing Jewish-Muslim marriages, and far-right activist attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir. Kahane was elected to the Knesset in the 1980s and subsequently banned on grounds of racist incitement; Marzel was his parliamentary aide.
Smotrich explained the hesitation, after weeks of negotiations, saying “religious Zionism is not Rabbi Kahane,” in reference to Otzma’s extremism.
Yifat Ehrlich, who is seventh on the newly combined list, spoke out against the merger, saying most of Bayit Yehudi opposes it and the central committee will reject it.
“The New Right will drink our votes with a straw, because our base is not there,” Ehrlich told Kan.
The list’s offer to former Shas leader Eli Yishai still stands, Smotrich said, adding: “We cannot lose one vote.”
Netanyahu offered Yishai a cabinet post if he runs with the parties.
The idea would be for Yishai to take a realistic spot on the Bayit Yehudi list, but to resign from the Knesset once he gets the ministry, so that someone else can take his place as an MK.