(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The National Union Party that has run with Bayit Yehudi will have its first leadership race in six years on January 14 in the party’s central committee.
It was still unclear Saturday night how the departure of Bayit Yehudi leaders Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked would impact the partnership between Bayit Yehudi and the National Union.
“I will take upon myself to lead the religious Zionists if Bennett and Shaked want to lead the state,” said MK Bezalel Smotrich, who will challenge incumbent Uri Ariel in the race. Sources in the Bayit Yehudi say he has a good chance of emerging victorious, because he handpicked many of the central committee members when the committee expanded from 35 to 120 three years ago.
But Ariel has an advantage since many in the party’s current establishment could lose their jobs if Smotrich wins.
No one ran against Ariel in the 2015 general election after he defeated Yaakov “Ketzale” Katz in the 2012 leadership race.
In a sign that Smotrich could win, the same 120-member group voted in favor of his recommendation to run with Bayit Yehudi in the 2015 race and against Ariel’s recommendation to run with former Shas chairman Eli Yishai’s Yahad party.
The central committee will also choose its Knesset candidates in the meeting. It is still not clear whether the party will run on reserved slots on the Bayit Yehudi list.
Ariel has threatened that the party would not run with Bayit Yehudi if the National Union is not given high enough slots on the list.
Bayit Yehudi will choose its Knesset candidates in a primary among its 30,000 members during the first week of February.