NAFTALI BENNETT and Ayelet Shaked: What needs to be done is to shake up the spirit of the security establishment.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
In a surprising twist, two of the more popular and outspoken right-wing politicians, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, appear to have lost their bid to be in the 21st Knesset.
During the course of the election, it had seemed that political newcomer Rabbi Rafi Peretz, who headed the Union of Right-Wing Parties, was more likely to lose.
But when initial exit polls were released, it was the URP which appears poised to enter the Knesset with five mandates and Bennett and Shaked’s New Right Party had not received enough votes to do so.
“We expect the prime minister to unequivocally announce his intention to form a right-wing government in which we see ourselves as senior partners,” the URP said.
URP politician Bezalel Smotrich told KAN that his party had already spoken with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about entering his new coalition, even before it makes any recommendations to President Reuven Rivlin as to who would be best as prime minister.
At a gathering of his supporters in Bnei Brak, Bennett said he believed that once the soldiers votes were counted, the party would have enough support to enter the Knesset.
“We have always taken care of the soldiers and now they will take care of us,” Bennett said. “The New Right will pass, and it will pass very nicely, we just need to be patient. We believe in our path and we will succeed.”
“You have given it your all,” Shaked added. “I am certain that we will pass, we still have a lot of work to do. Together, we will succeed in achieving our goals. We are in this for the long haul.”
The New Right Party sounded the alarm already on Tuesday, warning that it had lost too many votes to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party.
“Our situation is bad,” Bennett said. “We started off well. But then Netanyahu and [Bezalel] Smotrich [of the URP] attacked us from both sides. We are bleeding votes. We need your immediate help. Focus all your votes on the New Right, the letter Nun in the polls. We worked so hard for the past six years and we need every vote.”
“They [URP] are doing just fine,” Bennett said in a message to English voters. “We need it. We are in a very dangerous point right now. Your vote can make all the difference and allow us to continue.”
Netanyahu in the last days and hours of the election had sought voters from the smaller right-wing parties such as Bennett’s in an effort to ensure that the Likud receives the highest vote count.
According to pre-election polls from last week, the New Right Party had been expected to receive five to eight mandates. In 2013, Bennett was one of the success stories of the election, when the party he then headed, Bayit Yehudi, secured 12 mandates. It’s a number that dropped to eight in 2015. At the time, Bennett blamed Netanyahu for taking votes away from his party at the last moment.
At the start of these elections, Bennett and Shaked broke away from the Bayit Yehudi, believing that they would do better unshackled from the religious Zionist forces in the party.
On Tuesday, Bennett accused Netanyahu of executing the same pre-election tactic against the New Right that he had used in 2015.
Just prior to his message, Shaked sent out a similar message in Hebrew to voters.
But even if the party passes, it does so with much less power than anticipated. Among those politicians from their party who now will for certain not make it into the Knesset is former Jerusalem Post columnist and contributing editor, Caroline Glick.
During the bitter last hours before the polls closed, URP accused Bennett and Shaked of exaggerating the situation.
Attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir of the Otzma Yehudit party said that he was certain both Bennett and Shaked would be ministers in the next government.
What is less certain is whether the religious Zionist movement, which is represented by the Union of Right-Wing Parties, would make it into the Knesset. Ben-Gvir’s party is part of that union.
“You have to choose us to ensure that religious Zionism will have a home,” Ben-Gvir said. “Religious Zionism is an institution... It’s not something you go one round with and then exit.” This party is needed to pull the government to the Right, he added.
MK Bezalel Smotrich told Bennett and Shaked that they “should be ashamed of themselves” for trying to eliminate the Union of Right-Wing parties.
Union Party head Peretz responded to the election hysteria and was to head to the Western Wall to seek divine help and to remind voters that theirs was a faith-based party of principles.
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