(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
After a week of tortuous negotiations, and 24 hours in which MK Eli Yishai’s new Yachad Ha’am Itanu movement nearly split apart, the party announced it was uniting with Otzma Yehudit in a joint candidates list.
During the course of Thursday, MK Yoni Chetboun, No. 2 on Yachad’s list, looked like he was on his way out of his party due to his insistence, and that of Rabbi Tzvi Tau with whom he is close, that the party not unite with Otzma Yehudit.
Chetboun was adamantly opposed to running with Otzma Yehudit and reportedly said that bringing in the farright national-religious faction made it seem as if Yachad was an “anything goes” type party.
He made a dramatic threat to Yishai during the course of events Thursday, warning he would leave the party if Otzma Yehudit’s representative Baruch Marzel was brought in.
The opposition to Otzma Yehudit was partly driven by the position of Tau, president of the very conservative Har Hamor Yeshiva, who is close to Chetboun and who said he would not back Yachad if Otzma Yehudit was brought in.
Tau is vehemently opposed to visiting the Temple Mount, which is one the major causes of Otzma Yehudit leader Michael Ben-Ari.
Because of Ben-Ari’s position, Yachad demanded that he be removed from the list, to which Ben-Ari acquiesced, naming in his stead Marzel, who is less involved in Temple Mount activism.
Yishai’s spiritual patron, Rabbi Meir Mazuz, stepped into the argument and insisted that Chetboun be kept within the party and asked Yishai to bridge the gaps to allow Otzma Yehudit to stay and to satisfy Chetboun.
Marzel has now reportedly agreed not to visit the Temple Mount during the entire duration of the upcoming 20th Knesset, but will be free to split from the party immediately after the election.
Tau is expected to back the party, although possibly not publicly.
The combined Yachad-Otzma Yehudit list is headed by Eli Yishai, followed by Chetboun, and Michael Ayish, a haredi (ultra-Orthodox) political activist from Safed. In fourth spot is Marzel, while Sasson Trebalsi, a close associate of Mazuz, is at number five. The sixth spot will be taken by national-religious Rabbi Amital Bareli, and seventh by haredi candidate Dudi Shomenfeld.
“Yachad is staying together, haredim and national religious,” Yishai said. “We have an obligation to continue the great thing that we have created here, a covenant of those who observe the commandments for the Torah of Israel, the Land of Israel and the people of Israel. Thank God, that which unites us is greater than any argument. Together, in the name of God, we will succeed.”