How Bennett, Shaked will distinguish themselves from Likud, Bayit Yehudi

An inside look at how their party differs from ‘centrist’ Likud, ‘sectoral’ Bayit Yehudi.

By
January 6, 2019 21:16
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) flanked by Naftali Bennett (L) and Ayelet Shaked (R)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) flanked by Naftali Bennett (L) and Ayelet Shaked (R). (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

 
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The New Right (Hayemin Hehadash) plans to keep quiet for the next three weeks, granting no interviews as the new party led by Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked prepares its platform. The Jerusalem Post, however, received an inside look at their strategies and positions on Sunday.

One detail that has remained in question since the ministers announced the move last week is who will be first on the list. A party insider confirmed that Bennett will be number one, even though Shaked’s name comes first on the New Right logo. While Shaked is more popular in polls of the general population, Bennett is more popular with voters considering the party.

Details of the party’s platform remain under wraps because the platform is incomplete, but the New Right’s direction is in the spirit of where Bennett and Shaked have stood since entering politics in 2012.

“We will be very clear – the antithesis of Benny Gantz,” a senior party insider explained, referring to the former chief of staff who recently founded the Israel Resilience Party. “We aren’t a flavor for everyone. We are what we are. People know [Bennett and Shaked’s] stances. And more than anything, we want to stand for unity.”

Bennett and Shaked have long opposed a Palestinian state, and their party plans to emphasize that difference between them and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has said that there should be a demilitarized Palestinian state, though not saying so in recent years. They are presenting themselves as the “solid right,” which will make sure the “more central” Likud will keep to right-wing policies.

Research the New Right commissioned also found that two to three seats worth of voters are not happy with the Likud’s repeated floating of bills meant to save Netanyahu from the possible ramifications of his corruption investigations, and that some former Likud voters have migrated to Yesh Atid or Gantz’s party. They hope to bring those voters into the New Right’s fold.

ANOTHER WAY the party plans to distinguish itself from the Likud is not to focus on slamming the Left. This move is particularly surprising, in light of their having founded the “My Israel” organization – which engages in left-bashing, among other things – before entering electoral politics, and their recruiting pugnacious former Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick.

The party insider said Bennett is particularly bothered by fighting with the Left being a central theme in how the Right operates in recent years, and that he and Shaked want to focus more on taking positive and effective action.

As for its former home of Bayit Yehudi, the New Right will likely share most of its diplomatic positions, but they will be different on just about everything else. They plan to emphasize those differences, in order to attract voters – religious, secular and those in-between – who were turned off by Bayit Yehudi’s mixture of religion and politics.

Shaked and Bennett hope that one of them will reach the premiership one day, and found that Bayit Yehudi – a party that emphasized “sectoral responsibility,” including “wars about [egalitarian prayer at] the Western Wall and public transportation” on Shabbat – would not work with their other mission, leading to the split between the parties.

While their platform on matters of religion and state is not complete, the New Right plans to aim for policies that find as broad a consensus as possible, while maintaining Israel’s Jewish character and respect for personal freedom, modeled on the renowned Gavison-Medan model drafted by law professor Ruth Gavison and Orthodox Rabbi Yaacov Medan under the auspices of the Israel Democracy Institute.

NEW RIGHT’S research has suggested – just like most media-commissioned polls in the last week – that they and Bayit Yehudi would get as many as seven more seats in total separately than they did as one party. This is because both former Likud voters who can’t stomach alleged corruption and right-wing voters who found Bayit Yehudi to be too religious would migrate to the New Right. Meanwhile, they found, the “chardal” population, meaning more hardline religious-Zionists, would now vote for Bayit Yehudi minus Bennett, who they think is not religious enough.


The New Right brought Glick onto its list as a message to the Anglo population. Polling found that she is the most popular Anglo in Israel, and she will lead their English-language campaign.

A senior New Right source denied reports that American-Jewish billionaire Sheldon Adelson is involved in any way with the party’s establishment, contrary to a report in the haredi (Ultra-orthodox) daily Hamodia.

Meanwhile, Bayit Yehudi activists and remaining party MKs spent a weekend retreat together in Haifa, planning for the party’s future, after former party leader Bennett and Shaked left.

The New Right’s research found that Bayit Yehudi would maximize its potential if it ran with MK Bezalel Smotrich at its helm; doing so would bring in an extra two to three seats, in part because of his name recognition and clear, far-right ideology.

Smotrich, however, is in the National Union Party, which ran in a joint list with Bayit Yehudi in the last election; if he becomes a leader of the bloc, that decision would likely be made at a much later date.

IN 10 DAYS, the party will hold a central committee meeting in which it is expected to cancel its primaries for this election only, because they are costly and because of a concern that “there are many party members who support the faction members who left the party.”

In a letter to Bayit Yehudi central committee members, the committee that came up with a proposed alternative way to choose the party list wrote: “Our movement is facing a difficult challenge. The reality forced on us in recent days is especially challenging, and we are sure we will come out of it strong and united.”

The proposed plan is for a 13-member body made up of public figures, elected officials and party institution representatives, at least a third of whom must be women, to select the party leader. The committee can choose a leader who may not be a current party member, if they find him or her to be the most attractive to voters.

The central committee will vote on the rest of the party list. A woman must be in third place, if one is not elected to first or second place on the list.

MKs Eli Ben-Dahan and Moti Yogev, both of whom plan to run for party leader, continued to have divergent strategies for responding to Bennett and Shaked’s departure. In several media interviews, Yogev repeated his call for Netanyahu to fire the ministers, because they hold their portfolios as part of a coalition agreement with Bayit Yehudi, while Ben-Dahan opposes the move.

A Likud spokesman said Netanyahu did not receive any requests to fire Bennett and Shaked, and sources close to the prime minister posited that he did not want to turn them into martyrs in the middle of an election campaign.

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