No breakthroughs for further unity deals on the right

Smotrich said that he had even suggest that he and Ben Gvir meet with hardline religious-Zionist leader Rabbi Dov Lior to resolve the dispute but that Ben Gvir had refused that meeting too.

July 30, 2019 22:43
4 minute read.
No breakthroughs for further unity deals on the right

Ayelet Shaked and Rafi Peretz. (photo credit: REUTERS & AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

With two days left before the deadline for submitting party lists, contacts between the United Right and the far-right Otzma Yehudit have yet to bear fruit, while tensions are rising.

Otzma has stuck to its demand for the No. 5 spot on a joint electoral list, which until now the United Right leadership has rejected, as well as the No. 11 spot.

The ongoing deadlock of the right-wing comes as a Channel 12 poll published on Tuesday night showed that the new United Right list of New Right, Bayit Yehudi and National Union headed by Ayelet Shaked would garner 12 Knesset seats by itself, 13 seats with Otzma, and 14 seats if it included Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut Party.

In all of those scenarios, the United Right would be the third-largest party in the Knesset according to the poll, which had a ± margin of error of 4.4%.

The same poll also showed that neither Otzma nor Zehut would pass the electoral threshold of 3.25% by itself, with Zehut taking just 1.4% of the vote and Otzma 1.2% by themselves.

United Right issued a statement on Tuesday evening saying it was still working on “other unifications,” and specifically called on Otzma to join with them.

Otzma said in response that the terms on offer from United Right were “not realistic and deluded,” and that its behavior was not fitting that of a party trying to preserve the rule of the Right.

Zehut said that it had been open to a unity deal for weeks and was still open to such proposals, but that it would submit its own list for an independent run if it does not receive an answer by Wednesday afternoon.

KAN News reported on Tuesday afternoon that United Right leaders Ayelet Shaked, Rabbi Rafi Peretz and Bezalel Smotrich had agreed to give Otzma leader Itamar Ben-Gvir fifth place on the ticket, but that New Right co-founder Naftali Bennett was objecting because it would push a New Right candidate further down the list.

Regardless of positions on the electoral list, Bennett opposes adding Otzma to the United Right ticket since he views them as extremist, particularly on matters of religion and state, and is concerned the party would chase away secular, right-wing voters who he wanted to attract with New Right’s more liberal platform.

A source in United Right said that it would be “problematic” to offer Ben-Gvir the fifth spot given the agreement signed on Monday among Bayit Yehudi, National Union and New Right, which locked in place the allocated positions on the list for the different parties.

Giving Otzma the fifth spot would move everyone below down an extra place, pushing New Right candidates allocated for the seventh and 10th slots down to the eighth and 11th slots, which could have a significant negative impact on New Right’s eventual power in the Knesset.

Smotrich and Ben-Gvir exchanged accusations during the course of Tuesday, with Smotrich saying that the Otzma leader had refused to make a deal with Bayit Yehudi and National Union before they agreed terms with New Right, including an offer to give Ben-Gvir the fourth spot on a combined list of those three parties.

Smotrich said that he had even suggested that he and Ben-Gvir meet with hard-line religious-Zionist leader Rabbi Dov Lior to resolve the dispute, but that Ben-Gvir had refused that meeting too.

“We want Itamar [Ben-Gvir] in the Knesset,” said Smotrich. “We are aware of his talents and uniqueness, and we would work excellently together.” Nevertheless said Smotrich, the Otzma leader should not continue to “throw mud at me and Rabbi Rafi [Peretz]. It doesn’t help and isn’t appropriate.

“You have an opportunity that cannot be missed. You are too important,” he added.

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Ben-Gvir said that the eighth spot and another outside the top 10 was not sufficient, and would not bring out Otzma voters to the voting booths.

“I want to bring about a victory for the right-wing,” Ben-Gvir said. “It’s not about getting Ben-Gvir into the Knesset. We want to get 10 or 11 seats for this party. Otzma can bring two and half more Knesset seats – which is why we asked for two spots in the top 10 – and get 10 seats for a united list. Votes for Otzma will come only if we have two dignified spots on the list.”

Contacts are also ongoing between United Right and Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut Party, although Feiglin appears reluctant to do a deal now with the former party.

“Naftali Bennett wanted to unite with Zehut, but Ayelet Shaked had other interests and they have become the old Bayit Yehudi, the National Religious Party of old,” Feiglin said on Kol Hai radio on Tuesday morning. “Shaked is the one who thwarted the unity deal with Zehut and New Right. Her unity deal with Bayit Yehudi will put Zehut across the electoral threshold,” meaning that right-wing voters who are moderate on religion and state issues will now come to him.

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