Yamina remains intact as deadline for party split expires

According to Israeli law, a number of MKs may break away from their original party in order to receive funding as a separate party up to three days after the Knesset disperses.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett with Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked during a plenum session at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on February 28, 2022. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett with Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked during a plenum session at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on February 28, 2022.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked’s Yamina Party remained intact on Sunday, the last day that parties were allowed to split ahead of the upcoming election.

However, MK Itamar Ben-Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit faction split off from MK Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionist Party.

According to Israeli law, a number of MKs may break away from their original party in order to receive funding as a separate one up to three days after the Knesset disperses. Parties receive funding based on the number of seats they won in the previous election. Beginning now, funding for any current Knesset members who decide to create their own party will remain with the original one.

Yamina’s future became unclear after Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced last week that he was handing its reins over to Shaked. Many expected Religious Affairs Deputy Minister Matan Kahana to leave the party, but he announced on Sunday that he was staying put for the time being.

“I will continue to be a home for the moderate religious Zionism, for those who allow anyone to enter their synagogue, to those who respond peacefully to an outstretched hand even of someone who thinks differently, and to those who are willing to pass a glass of water even to a political rival.”

MK Matan Kahana
MK Itamar Ben Gvir seen in the East Jerusalem neighborhood Sheikh Jarrah, on January 20, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)MK Itamar Ben Gvir seen in the East Jerusalem neighborhood Sheikh Jarrah, on January 20, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Kahana wrote that he would act in order that there will be a “wide unity government,” saying, “in the current political reality a government of one side only is very bad for the State of Israel.”

Kahana’s comments were seen as contradictory to Shaked’s preference of a right-wing government, setting off rumors that he was on his way out. He later decided that he would not leave Yamina for now.

Why Ben-Gvir split from Smotrich

Those close to Ben-Gvir emphasized that the reason for his split from Smotrich was purely technical, in order for the party to receive a standard for another member in the Election Committee. Each Knesset faction is allowed a representative in the committee, and Ben-Gvir’s move effectively gave him and Smotrich another seat.

Ben-Gvir is also expected to take advantage of the split in order to renegotiate a merger with Smotrich. Ben-Gvir’s popularity has grown over the past year, and he may even take over the lead from Smotrich in the new merger.

“Those leftists who had no problem forming a government here with Walid Taha and the Muslim Brotherhood, who want to throw LGBTs off the rooftops, if I would be in a place of influence, things would be good,” Ben-Gvir said in an interview with Northern Radio shortly after he announced his decision.