Ayelet Shaked and Yoaz Hendel part ways days before electoral deadline

Just a little over a month after launching a joint campaign together, Ayelet Shaked is parting ways with Yoaz Hendel.

 Interior Minister and head of the Zionist Spirit Ayelet Shaked, and the Minister of Communications Yoaz Handel hold a press conference in which they reveal Amitai Porat, number 3 of  list of the Zionist Spirit on August 21, 2022 at Hamacabia Village in Ramat Gan.  (photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)
Interior Minister and head of the Zionist Spirit Ayelet Shaked, and the Minister of Communications Yoaz Handel hold a press conference in which they reveal Amitai Porat, number 3 of list of the Zionist Spirit on August 21, 2022 at Hamacabia Village in Ramat Gan.
(photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked has parted ways with her Zionist Spirit partner – Derech Eretz faction leader Yoaz Hendel – just four days before the deadline to submit electoral lists for the 25th Knesset, the two announced on Sunday morning.

Shaked’s decision to part ways with Hendel and run alone in the election was reportedly due to them not seeing eye to eye regarding the party’s stance on a potential coalition with Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud. While Hendel said he preferred going to a sixth election over joining a narrow right-wing government led by Netanyahu, Shaked preferred the opposite.

"... They would rather drag the country into another election than form a right-wing government."

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked

“Despite repeated statements by the two, the Derech Eretz faction is still captivated by hate speech and boycotts,” Shaked wrote on Facebook. “This discourse drags the country into elections time and time again leading to instability and crushing Israel. I am not prepared to drag the State of Israel into another election, and in the event that it fails to form a unity government, I will strive to establish a balanced right-wing government in which the Zionist Spirit will play a responsible role.”

 Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked holds a press conference with Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel at Hamacabia Village in Ramat Gan, on July 27, 2022 (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90) Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked holds a press conference with Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel at Hamacabia Village in Ramat Gan, on July 27, 2022 (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)

He said, she said

While it was originally reported that Hendel was the one to make the decision to split from Shaked, those close to Shaked claim that the opposite is true and Shaked was the one who made the decision, and announced it to Hendel on Saturday night. Hendel, who will be in New York this week participating in The Jerusalem Post’s annual conference, requested that Shaked wait until he lands in the US on Sunday afternoon before making the decision public. He then went and leaked the information to Yediot Aharonot, which then mistakenly printed on its front page on Sunday that Hendel was the one to have pulled the trigger, Shaked claimed.

“Hendel chose in a non-state and unethical manner to deviate from the agreement and act in ways that do not respect either side,” she said.

“Minister Shaked wishes the Derech Eretz faction good luck, and she will present her list to the Knesset in the next few days,” her office later said in a statement.

Posting on his Facebook page in his response to Shaked and the decision, Hendel said “there is an unbridgeable gap between us.”

The communications minister explained the split between him and Justice Minister Shaked, saying: “I founded the Zionist Spirit Party with Ayelet Shaked from a joint goal to reach national unity. If we agree to a 61-MK coalition only from the Right, there will be no national unity. In my opinion, a narrow Bibi-[Itamar] Ben-Gvir coalition or a Center-Left one with the Joint List would be a disaster.”

The tension between the two was already reported on Thursday, but at the end of a meeting on Thursday evening they announced that they were moving forward together. However, following an additional meeting on Friday, Shaked changed her mind.

DESPITE CAMPAIGNING under the promise that she would not join a narrow government, Shaked later wrote in a Facebook post that she was changing course.

“The yes Bibi-no Bibi discourse is destroying Israel. The boycotts from one side are destroying Israel. I was not willing in the past and am not willing now to take part in the game of boycotts at the expense of the citizens of Israel. If the boycotts continue I will under no circumstances allow Israel to be dragged into another election. This has always been my position.

“After this election I will do everything to form a broad and stable government, but if the boycotts continue, I will make sure that a right-wing government will be formed – in my way. Responsibly, while safeguarding the national institutions and from a developed worldview and loyalty to the path. We only have one state,” she said.

After listing her accomplishments in recent years, Shaked wrote, “True, I made mistakes. There is no human being who does not make mistakes. As a public servant, some of my decisions ended up being mistaken. But always, I acted only with the good of the State of Israel in mind. Now learning is needed in order to amend and storm forwards.

Today I am returning home to where my heart is,” she wrote.

The breakup came as polls consistently predicted that Zionist Spirit would not pass the electoral threshold as it currently stood. Shaked, therefore, attempted to bring on the Bayit Yehudi faction, which demanded the No. 3 and 4 spots on the list. Hendel refused, since this would have pushed his No. 2, MK Zvi Hauser, down from fourth on the list to the possibly unrealistic fifth spot.

Now that the two have parted ways, Shaked is expected to merge with Bayit Yehudi, which is led by Givat Shmuel Mayor Yossi Brodny. She also met with former Yamina MK Abir Kara to discuss bringing him on board. Kara founded a new party last Sunday called Economic Freedom, and said he was willing to consider joining anyone who would adopt his right-wing economic agenda.

"We call on Shaked to be responsible and withdraw from the race and avoid wasting votes."

Statement from the Religious Zionist Party

The Bayit Yehudi said in response: “The Bayit Yehudi Party congratulates Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked for her announcement, and calls on her to lead a joint list of Yamina and the Bayit Yehudi. This list will be the home for all of Israel’s moderate Right and of hundreds of thousands of people from the religious-Zionist sector. Only by uniting forces can the public gain a political home that will be right-wing, Zionist and significant. Our strength is in our unity.”

It is not clear whether Shaked will remain with the name Zionist Spirit, revert back to Yamina or choose a new name. It is also unclear if Hendel and Hauser will run in the election. Finally, it is unclear whether Shaked will remain in the government for the remainder of the election campaign.

The Religious Zionist Party, headed by Bezalel Smotrich, slammed Shaked, telling her to “take responsibility and quit.”

“Together Shaked and Hendel were below the threshold, after they split it is obvious that a vote for Shaked is wasting a vote and is a danger to the Right.

We call on Shaked to be responsible and withdraw from the race and avoid wasting votes,” he said.

Meretz leader Zehava Galon also commented on the development.

“No spirit, nor Zionist. The damage that Ayelet Shaked caused in the Interior Ministry is immense – to the human rights of refugees and asylum-seekers, to Israel[’s] democratic and humane character. She will not be missed,” Galon said.