Bayit Yehudi and National Union in merger discussions

Former Bayit Yehudi leaders Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked tried in vain to make the party more socially liberal and less beholden to the religious-Zionist rabbis.

Bayit Yehudi and National Union agree to run on joint list (photo credit: OFFICE OF EDUCATION MINISTER RABBI RAFI PERETZ)
Bayit Yehudi and National Union agree to run on joint list
(photo credit: OFFICE OF EDUCATION MINISTER RABBI RAFI PERETZ)
The right-wing, religious-Zionist parties Bayit Yehudi and National Union have begun discussions for a full political merger, largely due to the ideological convergence of the two parties as well as awful polling numbers.
Former Bayit Yehudi leaders Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked tried in vain to make the party more socially liberal and less beholden to the religious-Zionist rabbis who had previously had a much greater role and influence within the political outfit.
The National Union party, itself a coalition of several hard-right religious-Zionist parties, has run on a joint list with Bayit Yehudi in the four elections of the last six years, but its hardline representatives frequently clashed with Bennett and took a more hard-line position on matters of religion and state, social issues and to a lesser extent on security and diplomatic policies.
Ever since Bennett and Shaked left to form New Right, and the strongly conservative Rabbi Rafi Peretz was appointed to head up Bayit Yehudi, it has been clear that there is little dividing Bayit Yehudi and National Union.
Officials in both parties are now realizing that there is little justification or reason for the existence of two separate religious-Zionist parties since their policies on settlements, control and eventual annexation of the West Bank, matters of religion and state and societal issues are extremely close.
In addition, several recent polls have put a joint Bayit Yehudi-National Union list significantly below the electoral threshold and therefore out of a new Knesset, although it is unclear how a full merger instead of a joint list would ameliorate this situation.
On Monday, a spokesman for the parties said that negotiating teams from Bayit Yehudi and National Union met to “immediately investigate professionally and legally [the possibility of] a full merger of the parties,” regarding the mechanism for such a merger and the establishment of new party institutions.
The spokesman said that also under discussion was a method for choosing a party list, including the preparation of primaries.
One source said that if the parties merged it would be likely that there would be a new membership drive and that those members would then select a party slate and leader.
During previous negotiations for a joint run, Peretz insisted that he head the slate and Bezalel Smotrich gave way to the respected, if less popular, rabbi.