Eldad, Ben-Ari form new party: Strong Israel

Split follows months of infighting in National Union; Eldad to lead list that will "fill a vacuum in the Right."

Eldad and Ben Ari introduce Strong Israel party 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/ The Jerusalem Post)
Eldad and Ben Ari introduce Strong Israel party 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/ The Jerusalem Post)
MKs Arieh Eldad and Michael Ben-Ari officially broke off from the National Union Tuesday, forming a new party called Strong Israel.
After months of infighting in the National Union, mostly about whether the faction should hold a primary or not, Ben-Ari and Eldad first announced their intention to run on their own in October.
The National Union is a joint list made up of four parties: Tkuma, which includes MKs Ya’acov 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 but had the rights to the “National Union” name in the 18th Knesset.
In recent weeks, the faction’s structure changed, with Ben-Ari quitting Eretz Yisrael Shelanu and Moledet giving the rights to the name “National Union” to Tekuma.
In addition, National Union leader Katz was replaced by Ariel, with the former bumped to the second slot on the party’s list for the 19th Knesset.
Eldad and Ben-Ari negotiated with Tekuma over the last month to no avail, leading them to announce the formation of Strong Israel, Otzma L’Israel in Hebrew, on Tuesday in a press conference with right-wing activists Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben-Gvir, who previously planned to form a party with Ben-Ari.
Strong Israel is running under the slogan “no obligations, no privileges.” Eldad will lead the party, with Ben- Ari second, followed by Marzel, Ben-Gvir and Israel Land Fund founder Arieh King.
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Eldad cited a “vacuum” in the Right after Yisrael Beytenu merged with Likud and “sits on the same list as [Intelligence Agencies Minister] Dan Meridor” while Aryeh Deri is “pulling Shas to the Left to the days of Oslo.”
“There’s a need for an ideological Right that will say things that were forgotten: No obligations, no rights. The Land of Israel belongs to the People of Israel.”
“[Minister without Portfolio] Bennie Begin is proud of transferring money to Arab towns. Do they pay property tax? Do they pay taxes at all?” Ben-Ari asked, adding that Strong Israel will only join the coalition if it is loyal to the Land of Israel.
When asked about the two MKs’ reputation for hating Arabs, Eldad responded: “A Jewish majority does not mean hating others. I think the Land of Israel belongs to the People of Israel and not the Mamluks [historical reference to slave soldiers of Muslim countries]. We are fighting for the Jewish character [of Israel], and saying we hate others is unfounded.”
Eldad made a dig at Katz and Ariel, saying: “Our friends in Tekuma joined the National Religious Party, and that is their right. We’re sure they’ll take care of the religious-Zionist sector,” in reference to the planned National Union- Habayit Hayehudi joint list for the next Knesset.
“We have a new list for all of the people of Israel,” Eldad added. “Our party is not sectorial and deals with real problems.”
A senior National Union source pointed out that, in the last election, Ben-Ari joined the faction two hours before the deadline to submit party lists, and he is sure the two MKs will be a part of the joint list with Habayit Hayehudi.
“Our friends’ departure and the formation of a new party helps the Left, because tens of thousands of votes will be lost, bringing us back to the days of Oslo,” the National Union spokesman said. “We worked to unite the religious and nationalist public, and it is unfortunate that our friends oppose unity with Habayit Hayehudi.”
The spokesman added that Ben-Ari and Eldad did not learn the lessons of history, which show splitting up parties bring “victims of peace.”