Ben-Ari, Eldad planning split from National Union

Source close to Katz says threats are a "power play" to get higher positions on list.

Michael Ben Ari (R390) (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Michael Ben Ari (R390)
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
MKs Michael Ben-Ari and Arieh Eldad of the National Union plan to break off from their party and run as an independent list, after talks with their faction chairman Ya’acov Katz broke down on Saturday night.
The National Union is a joint list made up of four parties: Tkuma, which includes MKs Katz and Uri Ariel; Hatikva, led by Eldad; Eretz Yisrael Shelanu, represented by Ben-Ari; and Moledet, which does not have any seats in the Knesset. According to a Jerusalem Post\Smith Research poll, the party would maintain its current four seats in the next Knesset.
Ben-Ari and Eldad, who have the third and fourth spot on the National Union list, respectively, cite ideological reasons for the split, as well as a possible unity deal with Habayit Hayehudi and the fact that their calls for a primary were rejected.
Though the MKs’ departure from the party is not final, Eldad turned down overtures from Katz on Saturday night.
“Tkuma has only been representing itself and not the entire National Union in negotiations to run in a joint list with Habayit Hayehudi,” a source close to Eldad said.
“Katz has said in interviews that he isn’t committed to running with Eldad and Ben-Ari.”
Right-wing activist and Ben- Ari’s spokesman Itamar Ben- Gvir said that “Habayit Hayehudi does not really want us, and we have a clear ideology that we cannot give up for a unity deal. We don’t just want to warm a seat in the Knesset; we want to serve our public.”
According to Ben-Gvir, Ben- Ari and Eldad plan to get votes not only from settlements, but also from underprivileged neighborhoods in south Tel Aviv, Or Akiva and Netanya.
“A lot of people in the neighborhoods are with us on two issues: infiltrators and Arabs,” he said. “These are voters who are disappointed by [Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu] and Shas.”
Ben-Gvir cited internal polls that show Ben-Ari and Eldad passing the 2-percent election threshold as an independent list, though a senior National Union source said that statistic was within the margin of error.
A source close to Katz called Ben-Gvir and Eldad’s threats “a power play,” and accused the two of trying to pressure Katz through the press, instead of directly to the National Union leader.