Israeli soldier casts his vote.
(photo credit: IDF)
For the second election in a row, Shuli Moalem-Refaeli found herself waiting with bated breath for IDF soldiers to save her – with their votes, that is.
Moalem-Refaeli is one of three Bayit Yehudi MKs – the others are Orit Struck and Avi Wortzman – who will not serve in the 20th Knesset according to Wednesday’s vote count, in which the party dropped from 12 to eight seats.
However, unlike Struck and Wortzman, Moalem-Refaeli still has a chance of making it in after the counting of “double- envelope” votes – those from soldiers, prisoners, hospital patients, polling station personnel and diplomats overseas.
In the last election, Moalem-Refaeli was in 12th place on the Bayit Yehudi list, which received 11 seats from the general public but got one more after soldiers’ votes were counted.
After finding out she would be an MK in 2013, she told The Jerusalem Post she was especially happy that she had gotten in because of soldiers. A nurse by profession, she was the chairwoman of the IDF Widows and Orphans Organization; her husband, Lt.-Col. Moshe Moalem of the Golani Brigade, was killed along with 72 other soldiers in the 1997 IAF helicopter disaster.
This time, Moalem-Refaeli is ninth, and she said she was “praying and hoping and waiting” that the soldiers would give Bayit Yehudi a boost so she wouldn’t have to start looking for a new job next week.
Despite feeling “sadness on a personal level and for the party,” she said she was “happy the nationalist camp [had its say] and there’s a right-wing government.”
As Bayit Yehudi MKs and activists licked their wounds Wednesday, she expressed confidence that her party’s “path is the right, good one and we have to try again and again to increase [our numbers] and not shrink like we did this time.”
Sources in Bayit Yehudi said people in the party were disappointed with the results and upset with its chairman, Naftali Bennett.
At the same time, there is no upcoming party primary, so there’s a generally unhappy atmosphere that’s unlikely to galvanize anyone into action any time soon, a source explained.
Moalem-Refaeli said that “people have a lot of faith in Naftali, but they are making demands of him to draw conclusions [from the results] and do some soul-searching.”
She added that “we need to take a deep breath and see where we made mistakes and how to move forward. We’re here for the long term. Things won’t always go the way we want. It’s clear what our direction is and what needs to be fixed.”
The Bayit Yehudi MK said the party had lost votes to Shas renegade Eli Yishai’s Yahad Party – which did not pass the electoral threshold and “threw thousands of votes into the trash can of history,” she said – and to the Likud.
Moalem-Refaeli pointed to what has come to be known as the Likud’s “gevald” campaign – a Yiddish term connoting panic – in the days before the election, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu giving an unprecedented number of interviews and repeating that all right-wing people must vote for him or risk having a leftwing government.
“The prime minister’s campaign frightened a lot of people that there will be a left-wing government, God forbid, against the will of the public,” she said. “The public panicked...
and a lot of religious-Zionist people said they had to be part of the national effort and help.”
MK Tzipi Hotovely, one of several religious-Zionist representatives in the Likud, said that her community “preferred the national interest over the sectorial one.”
“There was a shake-up, in which religious Zionism realized leadership comes from within the Likud,” she told Army Radio.
Hinting toward her ministerial aspirations, Hotovely added that “the prime minister got five seats on a silver platter from the religious-Zionist community, of which I am a member... This is a historic alliance that Netanyahu must recognize. It will be expressed in the next cabinet.
I have no doubt there will be religious Zionists in it.”