The new Hayemin Hehadash party could bring about the Left’s victory in the upcoming election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lamented.
According to Netanyahu, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who broke off from Bayit Yehudi to form the new party, are endangering the entire right-wing bloc. A spokesman for Netanyahu confirmed the remarks. “Bennett and Shaked are destroying right-wing parties, which won’t pass the electoral threshold,” Netanyahu told senior Likud officials. “This is a fatal wound to the nationalist camp that can lead to the rise of a left-wing government.”Bennett and Shaked later released the party’s first official statement, in which they argued they are strengthening the Right.“Instead of going to fake right-wing parties and getting the left in camouflage, come and join us, a true right that will unwaveringly fight for the interests of the people of Israel and the State of Israel,” they said. “It began in the polls yesterday and will continue until Election Day. Those on the right who went to [centrist parties led by] Gantz, Lapid and Orly Levy – are returning home."The ministers’ spat with Netanyahu continued at a conference hosted by the Kalkalist economic newspaper, where Shaked argued that after the election, “I estimate it will be the prime minister’s last term, because he is not young and there are investigations. We don’t know what will happen with the investigations.“I always say I hope his cases are closed and we can go back to functioning as usual and won’t have to answer all these questions,” Shaked added, referring to the three cases in which police recommended Netanyahu be indicted on corruption charges. “My opinion remains that, certainly until a final decision by the attorney-general after a hearing, we don’t have to do anything…By law, the prime minister can remain until he is convicted with a final verdict. Rationality dictates that the decision of one person, the attorney general, cannot bring down a government.”The Likud responded that “anyone who wants a right-wing government must vote for the Likud led by Netanyahu.“Bennett and Shaked’s divisions are bringing the Right to the verge of the election threshold and are crushing the right-wing bloc on the way to bringing about a left-wing government,” the party’s spokesman said, accusing them of “using and throwing away Bayit Yehudi” and “shooting at the entire right-wing bloc in order to move seats from the Right to the Left.”In Sunday night’s polls, taken out by five different media outlets, several right-wing parties’ seats were just above the 3.25% electoral threshold, which in most cases would mean a minimum of four seats. Shas, Yisrael Beytenu and Bayit Yehudi all had low polling numbers, and in one poll, the latter two came out below the threshold.Bennett and Shaked were Netanyahu’s advisers from 2005-2008, when he was opposition leader, but things ended badly, and since then, they do not get along well. Shaked and Bennett maintain that they usually have a working relationship with him, but Bennett complained that Netanyahu has not taken him and Bayit Yehudi seriously enough in his speech announcing his new party, which he hopes will have greater leverage.Bayit Yehudi MK Motti Yogev, who is running for party leader, tried to leverage the situation by asking Netanyahu’s office if Shaked and Bennett could be fired from the cabinet, but was rebuffed. Yogev’s spokesman explained that if they had split the party before an election was called, they probably would not have retained their portfolios, because the coalition agreement was made with Bayit Yehudi and not with Bennett and Shaked personally.Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan, who is also running for Bayit Yehudi leader, called Yogev’s actions “irresponsible and not representative of the party. We are not busy with revenge…We need to focus on uniting religious Zionism and not on Shaked and Bennett.”Another candidate may join the race to lead the Bayit Yehudi after the ministers’ split: Avihai Boaron, leader of the protests against the demolition of the Amona outpost. He also used to be the publisher of Ma’ayanei Hayeshua, a religious newsletter distributed in synagogues, which censored images of women. Boaron ran in the Bayit Yehudi primary in 2015, but did not get into the Knesset, and quit the party after Amona was razed. He told religious-Zionist news site Srugim that he is considering running to lead the party.
Bennet and Shaked announce a new right-wing party, December 30, 2018 (Courtesy)