Netanyahu offers minister posts to URP to encourage Otzma merger - report

Otzma is demanding the 3rd spot in a religious-Zionist joint list.

July 25, 2019 11:54
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)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly offered Bayit Yehudi and National Union two ministerial posts in the next government if they add the far-right Otzma Yehudit Party to their political union.

According to the report, the prime minister conditioned the offer on the two religious parties adding Otzma before allowing Ayelet Shaked’s New Right Party to join.

Netanyahu made a similar promise before the last election, which indeed paved the way for Otzma to join Bayit Yehudi and National Union in a large religious-Zionist coalition called Union of Right-Wing Parties.

A source in Bayit Yehudi told The Jerusalem Post, however, that there is a “basic agreement” between Bayit Yehudi, National Union and the Likud that the two parties would get two ministerial positions, regardless of whether they bring Otzma in.

The Likud did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Otzma Yehudit is currently demanding that it be given four spots – including the third place – on a joint list with Bayit Yehudi and National Union.

Sources in the party told the Post on Wednesday they “appreciate” Netanyahu’s efforts to maximize the voting potential of the rightwing bloc, in reference to Netanyahu’s renewed requests that Bayit Yehudi leader Rabbi Rafi Peretz bring Otzma into the joint list it has formed with the National Union Party.

According to a Walla report, Netanyahu has offered Bayit Yehudi and National Union two ministerial posts in the next government if they add Otzma to their joint list.

According to a senior Otzma official, the party is demanding the third, sixth, ninth and 12th spots on a combined list with Bayit Yehudi and National Union.

If there is a broader unity deal with New Right as well, the official said, Otzma would seek the fourth or fifth spot and the eight place.

In the April elections, Otzma was given the fifth and eight spots on a joint list with Bayit Yehudi and National Union, and was promised that if members of the other parties were made ministers, they would resign as MKs to allow the highest-placed Otzma representative to enter the Knesset.

Otzma has expressed deep disappointment and frustration at the failure of Bayit Yehudi and National Union ministers Peretz and Bezalel Smotrich to resign, despite this agreement.

Senior Otzma leader Itamar Ben-Gvir said the party is now determined to ensure it gets a realistic spot on the list.

“We secured unprecedented success for the religious-Zionist parties,” he told the Post.

“Because of us the parties have six MKs and two ministers, and we have been given nothing to show for it. We did not work so hard for others, only to be excluded from the Knesset.”

He said, however, that “egos” are getting in the way of an agreement and expressed doubt that a deal could be done.

A senior source in Bayit Yehudi said he believes Peretz does indeed want Otzma in a joint list, but the price Otzma is asking is too great.

Asked about the New Right’s demands for half of all seats on a joint list and for party leader Shaked to be given the top spot, the source said the demands are “unreasonable and illogical.”

The source said Bayit Yehudi is prepared to give Shaked the No. 1 position on the list, but that New Right would have to settle for four of the top 10 seats in such a situation.

The Likud responded to the report, saying the prime minister “does not give out portfolios, and does not intervene in the mergers [of parties] on the Right.”

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