Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who failed to get reelected to the Knesset in the New Right Party, must be brought into the Likud to prepare for the era after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the rabbi who helped Netanyahu first become prime minister in 1996 told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
Australian diamond-mining tycoon and Chabad Rabbi Joseph Gutnick financed the successful “Netanyahu is good for the Jews” campaign with banners at junctions across the country that was credited with helping Netanyahu come from behind to defeat heavily favored incumbent Shimon Peres in the May 1996 election and win the premiership for the first time.
In an interview with the Post last July, Gutnick endorsed Shaked to become Netanyahu’s replacement whenever he would leave office. He said at the time that he told Shaked he would be willing to back her financially, but the time had come for her to switch allegiance from Bayit Yehudi to Likud. He also said that then-Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett should stand aside.
Instead, Shaked followed Bennett and joined him in forming the New Right, which narrowly failed to cross the 3.25% electoral threshold, pending the party’s appeal to the Central Elections Committee.
Reacting to Shaked not making it into the Knesset, Gutnick said: “Well, we don’t know anything for sure yet. However, I remember saying that if it’s meant to be that Ayelet should be in the Likud, then [God] will bring her there. I didn’t realize so quickly. The Likud will surely recognize her amazing qualities and bring her into the fold for the times post-Bibi. They will really need her then.”
Gutnick backs Shaked because of her right-wing views, her leadership, her ability to unite Israelis as a secular Jew who respects religion, and because he believes the time has come for Israel to have its second female prime minister after Golda Meir.
“I am very happy to endorse her to be Bibi’s heir,” Gutnick said last July. “Only when Bibi leaves should she then lead the Likud. I fully endorse her as the next prime minister only after Bibi leaves.”
The Ma’ariv newspaper ran a poll then that found if Shaked headed Likud, she would win 33 seats, the same as Netanyahu would win. Coalition chairman David Bitan has said that if Shaked ran in Likud, she would win the top spot on the Likud’s slate of Knesset candidates after Netanyahu.
Gutnick said at the time that Bennett should not “be selfish” and “should encourage Shaked for the sake of shleimut ha’aretz (maintaining all of the Land of Israel) and the Jewish world, because he has no chance to be prime minister.”