(photo credit: REUTERS)
Tensions between the Bayit Yehudi and Tekuma parties over whether the two will run on a joint list or split into two for the coming election continued to mount on Thursday, as two polls showed that Tekuma would gain seven Knesset seats if it were to run with Shas malcontent MK Eli Yishai, as has been rumored.
In the 2013 election, Tekuma, a hard-line national-religious party, ran together with Bayit Yehudi and received four reserved spots on the joint list, while Bayit Yehudi held primary elections to determine the order of Knesset candidates on the list.
The Bayit Yehudi party is, however, disinclined to make a similar offer for the current elections, believing the political influence of Tekuma has weakened.
“We will have more democratically elected MKs this time,” said one Bayit Yehudi source. “Tekuma’s influence on the party will decrease and [the result] will reflect the national- religious mainstream. We are moving forward.”
The source said that two or three reserved spots are the maximum on offer, with only two of those spots being placed in the top 10 of the electoral list. In the joint list for the 2013 elections, Tekuma received four spots in the top 10.
The united party, which had 12 seats in total during the 33rd government of Israel, experienced serious interfactional difficulties during the government’s short life time, often revolving around issues of religion and state, on which Tekuma took a more strident line, frequently objecting to legislation designed to reform the provision of religious services.
Negotiations for running on a joint list for the coming election are ongoing, largely over the issue of the reserved spots for Tekuma, which does not conduct primaries.
Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett and Tekuma head Uri Ariel are expected to meet again on Sunday.
“If the last time we had a nine to three ratio in the top 12 of the electoral list between Bayit Yehudi and Tekuma, we would have had a Bayit Yehudi American immigrant MK,” said Jeremy Saltan, the party’s English Speakers Forum chairman.
Two internal polls conducted in recent days and published by the Walla news website on Thursday both showed that if Tekuma would split from Bayit Yehudi and join forces with the discontented MK Eli Yishai of Shas, as has been rumored, the party would get seven seats in the next Knesset.
One of the polls was conducted by the Midgam Panel group of prominent pollster Mina Tzemach, while the other was carried out by the Rafi Smith Institute, with both showing the new party would take its seats from Bayit Yehudi, Shas, Likud and even United Torah Judaism, the Ashkenazi haredi party.
Ariel needs, however, four MKs, including himself, to split from Bayit Yehudi in order to gain the state-mandated funding allocation for the election campaign for Tekuma. Moreover, the deadline to guarantee that funding is Thursday night.
And Ariel has another problem, since sources close to Tekuma MK and Religious Services Deputy Minister Eli Ben-Dahan told The Jerusalem Post
on Thursday that he is likely to leave Tekuma and contest the Bayit Yehudi primary elections for a place on the party list for the coming election.
The Kipa news website reported that Ariel had met with Bayit Yehudi MK Yoni Chetboun on Thursday, possibly in an attempt to draw him into Tekuma and thus secure the funding for the election campaign.
Chetboun was a frequent critic of Bennett during the outgoing 19th Knesset and clashed over the creation of the Bayit Yehudi constitution and the law for haredi conscription.
Sources close to Yishai have confirmed that he and Ariel have considered running on a joint list, but Yishai is still seeking to secure his future within Shas and increase his power within the party.
Shas chairman Arye Deri is thought to have offered Yishai the No. 2 spot on the Shas electoral list and a ministerial portfolio should Shas enter the next government.
Yishai, however, wants to wrest some of the control over the party from Deri, including influence over the candidates and their positioning on the Shas electoral list, and is also demanding a say as to which political bloc, Right or Left, the party will align itself with after the election.
Haredi media reported on Thursday that Deri had demanded in negotiations that Yishai deposit a letter of resignation with him, which he would use if Yishai took steps within the movement to depose Deri.
A planned meeting between the two for Thursday morning was canceled in light of the developments.