MK Orit Struck, Bayit Yehudi candidate Yifat Ehrlich, National Union chairman Bezalel Smotrich, Bayit Yehudi chairman Raffi Peretz and Bayit Yehudi CEO Nir Orbacha.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Bayit Yehudi and National Union plan to run as one list in the upcoming election, signing the agreement overnight Thursday after a long negotiating period.
The parties will alternate seats on the list, with Bayit Yehudi getting the odd numbers and National Union the even. If the list has an odd number of seats, then there will be a rotation for the last seat.
National Union will get first choice of cabinet posts – meaning that if the party is in the government, National Union leader Bezalel Smotrich will likely become a minister – but if there is only one ministry given to the party in coalition negotiations, then that, too, will be rotated between Smotrich and Bayit Yehudi chairman Rabbi Rafi Peretz.
In addition, all decisions for the faction will be made by the leaders of both parties.
The agreement is identical to one Smotrich and Peretz reached a week earlier, but the latter backed down from it due to pressure from his party. For nearly an entire week, the Bayit Yehudi establishment did not allow its new leader to take part in the negotiations, even when Smotrich followed Peretz to several locations to continue talks.
The two parties ran together in the 2013 and 2015 elections, but at that time, National Union was thought to be the less powerful party, and therefore received fewer seats and lower priority in portfolios. However, in this election, Smotrich is a popular figure among hard-line religious Zionist voters and fought for his party to be on equal standing with Bayit Yehudi.
Peretz called the agreement a victory for religious Zionism.
“This agreement was reached with an understanding of the importance of this time and the challenges ahead of us, and with friendship and mutual modesty we are starting a new path,” Peretz said. “Together, we will lead religious Zionism to a big, strong and influential home in the State of Israel.”
Smotrich called the negotiations “long and exhausting,” and thanked God for their ending with a united list.
“I am convinced that we will lead [the bloc] together to a tremendous victory in the elections. In the coming days, we will make great efforts to add additional factors to the list so that the real Right will not throw any votes into the trash,” he said.
One possible partner mentioned was Otzma Yehudit, a party led mostly by students of Rabbi Meir Kahane, who was an MK in the 1980s and subsequently banned from running for the Knesset due to racist incitement.
Otzma said after the agreement was published that the parties did not leave a place for the people of Otzma Yehudit and other parties and think that another split in the Right is possible.
“Otzma will run with others on the Right in the upcoming election and we will be the surprise of this election,” a party spokesman said. “We wish Bayit Yehudi and National Union luck passing the electoral threshold and getting into the next Knesset.”
Likud praised the agreement and called for Bayit Yehudi and National Union to unite with other parties in order to bring more votes to the right-wing bloc and ensure its victory in the elections.
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