(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued his efforts to convince religious-Zionist parties to run together in the next election in order to add seats to the right-wing bloc, offering former Shas leader Eli Yishai a cabinet post if he runs with Bayit Yehudi-National Union in the upcoming election.
Netanyahu and Yishai held a late-night meeting, and the latter’s spokesman confirmed on Tuesday that the prime minister offered Yishai a cabinet post.
The idea would be for Yishai to take a realistic spot on the Bayit Yehudi list, but to resign from the Knesset once he gets the ministry, so that someone else can take his place as an MK.
Yishai has yet to respond to the offer, and sought the advice of his Rabbi Meir Mazuz, a leading Sephardic haredi rabbi, especially for those of Tunisian descent, on Tuesday afternoon.
“As I have done my whole life, I do not move one step without asking the advice of my rabbis,” Yishai said.
The former Shas leader is not a religious Zionist, but Bayit Yehudi and National Union are thought to be more willing to accept him into their ranks than Otzma Yehudit. Bayit Yehudi is concerned that Otzma’s extremism and antics will lose them votes in their own religious-Zionist base, even though the party is worth an additional two to three seats in some polls.
Meanwhile, Bayit Yehudi leader Rabbi Rafi Peretz and National Union chairman MK Bezalel Smotrich continue to refuse to meet with Netanyahu to discuss the possibility of adding Otzma Yehudit, the party led by students of Rabbi Meir Kahane, who was banned from running for the Knesset on grounds of racist incitement.
Bayit Yehudi continued to maintain that Netanyahu could add Otzma to Likud’s list, and that the prime minister is not really acting in the interest of the right-wing bloc.
A Likud spokesman said that Netanyahu is acting to unite the various parties “to save the right-wing bloc and prevent votes from being lost. Contrary to the spin, Likud will not attack this union in any way during the election; it will do the opposite.”
Meretz criticized Netanyahu for working to get Otzma into the Knesset, releasing a statement that “when the Right was ideological and not crazy, [former prime minister and Likud leader] Yitzhak Shamir would leave the Knesset when Kahane representatives would speak. Today Netanyahu is doing the opposite by working with all his might to bring the Kahanist list into the Knesset.”
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