(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Officials in the Yahad Ha’am Itanu party founded by renegade Shas MK Eli Yishai denied on Wednesday that there is any intent to run on a join list with the far-right Otzma Yehudit party.
Michael Ben-Ari and Baruch Marzel – the two leading members of Otzma Yehudit – met on Tuesday night with Rabbi Meir Mazuz, the spiritual patron of MK Eli Yishai and his new Yahad Ha’am Itanu party.
Otzma Yehudit has been looking for a political partner to run with in the upcoming elections, since it will most likely not pass the electoral threshold by itself.
According to an aide to Mazuz, Marzel is a close friend of the rabbi and visits him on occasion for advice, but they did not speak about political matters on Tuesday night.
Yishai himself did acknowledge on Wednesday that there was contact between Yahad and Otzma but that it had not been initiated by his party.
“Overtures have been made, although not by me,” the national-religious website Srugim reported Yishai as saying during a political tour in Jerusalem.
A Yahad party official denied that there is any intent to unite with Otzma, saying that the new faction is an “independent movement that seeks to unite the haredi and national-religious communities under one single banner.”
Yahad has generally been polling close to the electoral threshold but nevertheless not quite making it across the 3.25 percent mark that would let it enter the Knesset.
In a Panels poll conducted for the Knesset Channel and published on Tuesday, Yahad received three seats but was under the electoral threshold, while Otzma polled at two seats, also under the minimum needed to enter the Knesset.
Separately, Rabbi Tzvi Tau, the president of the deeply conservative Har Hamor national-religious yeshiva, told students and alumni of his yeshiva that it is forbidden for them to participate in the Bayit Yehudi primary.
Tau and the Har Hamor establishment are ardently opposed to reforms to the religious status quo, some of which Bayit Yehudi supports, and deem the party too independent from rabbinic instruction.
It is possible that Tau will instruct his followers to vote for Yahad, which would be a boost to the party’s credentials as bridging the gap between the haredi and national-religious communities.