Religious Zionist Party head MK Bezalel Smotrich and Otzma Yehudit head MK Itamar Ben-Gvir announced on Friday afternoon they would once again run in a joint list for the upcoming Knesset elections.The announcement came shortly after they left the Caesarea home of opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu, who invited the two religious-Zionist leaders in a bid to push through a political union.
Netanyahu, who influenced the two to merge ahead of last year’s election, was reportedly wary of potentially losing a significant amount of voters in his bloc if one of the parties to his Right fails to cross the electoral threshold.
“Unity is what is needed to ensure a victory for our bloc and to establish a stable government,” the former prime minister said following the announcement.
In a celebratory tweet, Smotrich noted the two will continue to work on "further mergers."
״שהחיינו וקיימנו והגיענו לזמן הזה״.שמח לבשר לכם שיחד עם חברי איתמר בן גביר הגענו להסכמה על ריצה משותפת בבחירות למען נצחון מחנה הימין בעזרת השם.נמשיך לפעול לחיבורים נוספים.יחד נעשה ונצליח!— בצלאל סמוטריץ' (@bezalelsm) August 26, 2022
In other polls conducted on the same day, The Religious Zionist Party trailed significantly behind Otzma Yehudit, giving both Smotrich and Ben-Gvir valuable food for thought after the latter announced an independent run earlier that same month.
The two have been embroiled in a battle of mind games and public perception to ensure neither of them is painted as the one who potentially endangered Netanyahu’s bloc.
“Only a joint [election] run will ensure that both parties pass the electoral threshold,” Netanyahu said on Tuesday.
The agreement between their parties will see a five/five split between the factions in the unified list, with Smotrich assuming leadership and Ben-Gvir once again his second in command.
Further down the list, Religious Zionist MKs will take the third, fourth, sixth and eighth spots, while Ben-Gvir will receive spots five, seven, nine and 10. The two also agreed that the 11th spot will be offered to the Noam Party, if it should decide to join the arrangement.
Abir Kara seeks 'economic freedom' from Shaked's Zionist Spirit
Elsewhere on the Right, Yamina MK Abir Kara announced on Friday that he would not be part of Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked's Zionist Spirit faction, citing "difference in policy."
“In a meeting that I had with Shaked, I found out that in the new structure of the party, there was no room for the values and the economic policies that I believe in,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
Kara went on to state that he does not intend to take a step back from politics and will "announce his political future over the coming days."
Shaked commented on Kara’s departure, saying that “The Zionist Spirit will continue to fly the flag for the free market and fight the obstacles and the high cost of living.”
"The Zionist Spirit will continue to fly the flag for the free market and fight the obstacles and the high cost of livingZionist Spirit leader, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked
She also praised Kara – who founded the “Ani Shulman” small business nonprofit – for his accomplishments in his first term as an MK. Shaked added that he “worked for the independent business owners and to remove regulation in the last year and made important accomplishments.” She later claimed that Kara left because he wanted the fourth slot on the party list and was pushed down to five.
It was later revealed in a letter announcing his split from the faction to Knesset House Committee chairman MK Nir Orbach that Kara’s new one-man Knesset faction would be called “Economic Freedom.”