Bayit Yehudi aims to take Shas voters after rabbi’s death

Bennett aims to put distance with Yair Lapid in bid to bring in right-leaning voters.

Naftali Bennett, right, Aliza Bloch, and Dov Lipman 370 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Naftali Bennett, right, Aliza Bloch, and Dov Lipman 370
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Bayit Yehudi began efforts to woo voters away from Shas even before the death of the Sephardi party’s mentor, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, party officials revealed on Thursday.
Several parties intend to focus on Shas’s poor, underclass voters in the periphery and the inner cities, hoping that they will defect from the party in Yosef’s absence. But Bayit Yehudi did not wait until the rabbi died on Monday.
Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett met with former Shas MK Haim Amsalem two weeks ago to discuss whether Amsalem’s Am Shalem party should run together with Bayit Yehudi in the next national election.
Amsalem has complained that Bennett reneged on a deal for the two parties to run together in last January’s vote.
Pensioners Affairs Minister Uri Orbach, who brokered that deal with Amsalem, said he was confident an agreement could be reached for next time. Orbach said Amsalem was a natural fit for Bayit Yehudi and could help persuade non-ultra-Orthodox Shas voters that the religious-Zionist party was an ideal fit for them.
“Amsalem could bring new voters to Bayit Yehudi,” Orbach said. “If we win 20 seats, there is room for everyone.”
Orbach stressed that the meeting was scheduled a month before it took place, well before the rabbi was on his deathbed.
Bennett has made a point of appealing to Shas voters recently.
Bayit Yehudi took out an advertisement in the Shas organ Yom Leyom for the first time this week memorializing Yosef.
In an interview with Yediot Aharonot on Rosh Hashana, Bennett distanced himself from his ally, Finance Minister and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, and said that his prototype middleclass “Ricky Cohen” was a lot poorer than Lapid’s.
Ahead of the October 22 municipal elections, Bayit Yehudi is running mayoral candidates in development towns with large Sephardi populations. Bayit Yehudi’s Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben-Dahan, who is a Sephardi rabbi, has been a popular speaker at the party’s campaign rallies to target Shas voters.
Amsalem said that if a deal cannot be reached with Bayit Yehudi, Am Shalem will run alone and will take mandates away from Shas.
“Without Maran [Yosef], Shas no longer has a right to exist,” Amsalem said.