Religious journalist Shimon Riklin was offered the number two spot on a joint Bayit Yehudi-Otzma Yehudit electoral list but stated on Sunday that he was turning down the offer.
Bayit Yehudi is searching for new electoral firepower to excite its base and appease party members and officials who are furious that party leader Rabbi Rafi Peretz has refused to allow primaries for the list and leadership.
Riklin, who is the diplomatic commentator and has a program on Channel 20 – a channel that is pro-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – said he had rejected the proposal.
“It’s too early,” he wrote on Twitter. “I’m not going anywhere despite Bayit Yehudi’s generous offer,” he continued, adding he believed it important for the different religious-Zionist parties to unite ahead of the coming election.
Despite this message, rumors continued to circulate that he would still joint Bayit Yehudi, which led him to tweet again further “For anyone who didn’t understand, I’m staying in journalism and thank you very much for all the offers and support.”
Talks are still ongoing between Bayit Yehudi and National Union to bring in the latter to a joint list together with far-right Otzma Yehudit, with whom Peretz signed an agreement for a joint Knesset run last month.
Peretz met with National Union leader Bezalel Smotrich on Sunday afternoon but there was no breakthrough in the talks, including over the issue of who leads any joint list.
Otzma’s agreement with Bayit Yehudi left open the second spot and fifth spot on the electoral list for National Union candidates should the party ultimately join a united list. The proposal to Riklin was that if National Union does not end up joining Bayit Yehudi and Otzma, the reserved second spot on the joint list would go to him.
There has also been talk, however, of National Union joining the more socially liberal New Right party led by Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, although sources in that party have said the option looks remote.
Otzma leader Itamar Ben-Gvir praised Smotrich on Sunday on Galei Yisrael Radio, saying his “natural place” was in a unity deal with Bayit Yehudi and Otzma.