Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel drops out of election as lists consolidate

Hendel initially parted ways with Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked from their Zionist Spirit Party just four days before the deadline to submit electoral lists for the 25th Knesset.

 Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel at the Jerusalem Post Conference in New York, September 12, 2022 (photo credit: CLINT SPAULDING)
Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel at the Jerusalem Post Conference in New York, September 12, 2022
(photo credit: CLINT SPAULDING)

Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel announced on Tuesday that he would not run in the November 1 election.

“I did everything I thought was right for the country,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “It’s clear to me that I also made mistakes in many decisions. Political instability is a strategic threat to the State of Israel. To exclude half of the people, and it doesn’t matter which side of the political map, only increases the feeling of polarization and harms the resilience of society. I established the Zionist Spirit for the sake of a unity government, and when I realized that this partnership would eventually lead to a narrow government, I preferred to dismantle and pay the political price.”

Hendel said that “it is not good for the Right to be alone and it is not good for the Left to be alone.”

He added that he was proud of his work as communications minister.

 INTERIOR MINISTER Ayelet Shaked and Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel announce their new party, in July.  (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90) INTERIOR MINISTER Ayelet Shaked and Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel announce their new party, in July. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)

Hendel initially parted ways with Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked from their Zionist Spirit Party just four days before the deadline to submit electoral lists for the 25th Knesset. The two split as a result of not agreeing on forming a coalition with former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party.

"I established the Zionist Spirit for the sake of a unity government and when I realized that this partnership would eventually lead to a narrow government, I preferred to dismantle and pay the political price."

Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel

Zvi Hauser

Hendel's colleague MK Zvi Hauser has announced on Twitter that he will not be running in the upcoming elections. 

What's the deal with Hendel and Ayelet Shaked?

He first joined politics in 2019 as part of Moshe Ya’alon’s Telem Party, eventually moved to Gideon Saar’s New Hope, and finally spent a short time with the Zionist Spirit Party.

Shaked agreed to a deal with Bayit Yehudi chairman Yossi Brodny that will see her lead the right-wing Bayit Yehudi Party in the election, Israeli media reported on Tuesday. Shaked will receive spots one, three, five and six, while Bayit Yehudi will receive spots two, four and seven. The party will run under the Hebrew letter Bet, which Yamina used for the past three elections.

Shaked reportedly met on Tuesday with the former deputy head of the Police Investigations Unit, Moshe Saada, and invited him to join her. He has yet to give an answer. Saada accused former Israel Police commissioner Roni Alsheich and former state attorney Shai Nitzan of covering up alleged police misconduct in order not to harm the police while it investigated Netanyahu. The criticism of Alsheich and Nitzan fit Shaked’s agenda of reforming Israel’s legal system.

“I am happy that we were able to rebuild a home for religious Zionism and the responsible Right in Israel,” Shaked said. “We will act together to form a broad, stable, right-wing government.”

The sides originally decided that the party would be known as “Bayit Yehudi led by Ayelet Shaked,” but her name was removed due to opposition from Bayit Yehudi’s central committee. The committee still needs to approve the final agreement, but is not expected to oppose it.

This marks a return for Shaked to the party she left with former prime minister Naftali Bennett in 2018 to form what would eventually become Yamina.

Yisrael Beytenu

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman announced his party list at an event in Tel Aviv on Monday evening. The top 10 names are identical to the previous election, with two changes: renegade MK Eli Avidar was replaced by Brig.-Gen. (res.) Sharon Nir, who served in her final position in the IDF as gender affair advisor to the chief of staff; and lawyer Batya Kahana-Dror was inserted into the No. 8 spot, ahead of four current MKs.

Kahana-Dror is a publicist and social activist, and is religious. She is perhaps best known for her tenure between 2009 and 2018 as CEO of the nonprofit Mavoy Satum, (“Blocked Alley” in English), which acts mostly on behalf of women whose husbands refuse to give them a divorce.

“Yisrael Beytenu is a home for all religious Zionists who feel that they have no one to vote for,” she said.

MK Alex Kushnir, No. 7 on the list, explained on Facebook: “As part of our vision, we wanted to expand women's representation in the party and that is what we did.”

The top 10 on the list are Liberman, Agriculture Minister Oded Forer, MK Evgeny Sova, Nir, MK Yulia Malinovsky, Minister in the Finance Ministry Hamed Amer, Kushnir, Kahana-Dror, MK Prof. Yossi Shain and MK lawyer Limor Magen Telem.

The party has received between five and six seats in nearly every poll so far, but MKs further down on the list could still remain in the Knesset if Yisrael Beytenu receives ministerial positions and its ministers resign under the Norwegian Law, as it did in the current government.

Joint List

The Joint List remains split between Balad and Hadash on one hand, and Ta’al on the other. The first two, led by MK Sami Abou Shahadeh and MK Ayman Odeh, reached an agreement on Friday evening that included a pledge not to recommend or join any coalition of Zionist parties unless they are given a number of assurances, including a written statement vowing to “end the occupation and establish a Palestinian state next to Israel.”

Ta’al reportedly was not willing to commit to all of the clauses in the agreement. Hadash and Balad also reserved only one spot in the top six for Ta’al, which is demanding two.

The sides are negotiating and are expected to reach an agreement for a joint run by the Thursday deadline.

Yesh Atid

Yesh Atid also announced its list, at an event on Tuesday evening. The top 10 on the list remained identical to its current makeup: Prime Minister Yair Lapid; Economy Minister Orna Barbivay; Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Minister Meir Cohen; Energy Minister Karin Elharrar; Social Equality and Pensioners Minister Meirav Cohen; Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov; Intelligence Minister Elazar Stern; Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy; Knesset Public Security Committee Chair Merav Ben Ari; and Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chair Ram Ben Barak.

The rest of the list also remains similar to the current list, with two changes: MK Michal Shir, previously of New Hope, was inserted in the No. 13 spot, and Muhammad Abu Alhaija in the 29th spot. MKs Nira Shpak and Inbar Bezek announced earlier this week that they were not running.

Likud

The Likud will convene its secretariat on Wednesday afternoon to affirm party leader Netanyahu’s choices for the spots reserved for him on the party list.

There are three spots reserved for Netanyahu on the list that have a realistic chance of making it into the Knesset: 14, 16 and 27. The choices have not been announced yet. Two of them are expected to be former Yamina MKs Amichai Chikli and Idit Silman, and the third might be Brig.-Gen. (res.) Gal Hirsch.

Religious Zionist Party

The Religious Zionist Party announced on Tuesday that party leader MK Bezalel Smotrich met with Noam Party leader MK Avi Maoz and offered him the 11th spot on the list, which he is expected to accept. The Religious Zionist Party received 11 seats in a poll on Tuesday, so the spot is considered realistic.

Five out of the top 10 spots are reserved for the Religious Zionist Party, including Smotrich and MKs Ofir Sofer, Orit Struk, Simcha Rothman and Michal Waldiger. The other five will be filled by MK Itamar Ben Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit faction, and will include Itamar Ben-Gvir, party CEO Yitzhak Wasserlauf, Almog Cohen, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Zvika Fogel and settler leader Limor Sivan Har-Melech.