(photo credit: KNESSET)
Despite MK Eli Yishai’s new party, Yachad Ha’am Itanu, publicly refusing to contemplate unification with far-right party Otzma Yehudit last week, speculation mounted on Sunday that a deal was in the works.
Both parties are struggling in the polls, with Yachad frequently coming close to or even passing the electoral threshold, and Otzma Yehudit remaining under it with approximately two mandates.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, No. 2 on Otzma Yehudit’s list, said on Sunday that there were “real contacts between us and the Yachad party.” It was only on Sunday that “the penny dropped regarding the need to unite in order to pass the electoral threshold,” he told the Kipa news website.
A poll conducted by Panels and published on Saturday night on the Srugim website gave a joint Yachad-Otzma Yehudit electoral list seven Knesset seats.
Ben-Gvir said if the two parties agreed to a joint electoral list they would do so only as a “technicality,” and that the two would even run separate election campaigns.
Yachad officials, including Yishai himself, have denied wanting to unite with Otzma Yehudit, led by the radical Michael Ben-Ari, citing the party’s far-right positions and policies as not being commensurate with Yachad’s agenda.
It is possible once the elections are over the two parties could split once again, leaving Yachad free to join the coalition, and Otzma Yehudit, which adamantly refuses to consider negotiations with the Palestinians or any slowdown in settlement construction, to oppose government policies.
Because Otzma Yehudit is in a worse position electorally than Yachad, Ben-Gvir indicated that the party would be willing to accept the fourth and sixth spots in the joint electoral list, with the first three going to Yachad.
Yachad officials could not be reached for comment before press time.