No breakthroughs for further unity deals on the right

“We want Itamar [Ben Gvir] in the Knesset, we are aware of his talents and uniqueness and we would work excellently together,” said Smotrich.

July 30, 2019 20:42
3 minute read.
Itamar Ben-Gvir

Itamar Ben-Gvir from the Otzma Yehudit party, attends a hearing at Israel's Supreme Court in Jerusalem March 13, 2019. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)

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

Otzmah is 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.

Kan News reported on Tuesday afternoon that United Right leaders Ayelet Shaked, Rabbi Rafi Peretz and Betzalel Smotrich had agreed to give Otzmah leader Itamar Ben Gvir the 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 Otzmah 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 between 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 it down an extra place, pushing New Right candidates allocated for the seventh and tenth slots down to eight and eleven, which could have a significant negative impact on New Right’s eventual power in Knesset.

Smotrich and Ben Gvir exchanged accusations during the course of Tuesday, with Smotrich saying that the Otzmah leader had refused to do 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 joint list of those three parties.

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.

“We want Itamar [Ben Gvir] in the Knesset, we are aware of his talents and uniqueness and we would work excellently together,” said Smotrich, but said that 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 ten was not sufficient and would not bring out Otzmah voters to the voting booths.

“I want to bring about a victory for the right-wing. It’s not about getting Ben Gvir into the Knesset, we want to get ten or eleven seats for this party,” said Ben Gvir.

“Otzmah can bring two and half more Knesset seats which is why we asked for two spots in the top ten and get ten seats for a united list,” he insisted.

“Votes for Otzmah 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,” he said on Kol Hai radio Tuesday morning.
“Shaked is the one who thwarted the unity deal with Zehut with New Right. Her unity deal with Bayit Yehudi will put Zehut across the electoral threshold,” he added, meaning that right wing voters who are moderate on religion and state issues will now come to him.

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