Negotiations between Smotrich and Peretz fall apart

Merger negotiations between The National Union and Bayit Yehudi have broken down, as both parties seek ways to clear the electoral threshold and not lose votes for the Right.

Bezalel Smotrich and Rabbi Rafi Peretz after signing the agreement with the National Union. (photo credit: BAYIT YEHUDI)
Bezalel Smotrich and Rabbi Rafi Peretz after signing the agreement with the National Union.
(photo credit: BAYIT YEHUDI)
As the left-wing parties unite, the Right is finding it difficult to ignore their disagreements in an attempt to unite its small parties. 
National Union chairman and Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich announced on Tuesday morning that, "just before the signing, and after the agreement was drafted, the Bayit Yehudi Party withdrew its signature and asked to continue negotiations after its central authority convened." 
However, he stressed that, "in the time remaining until the closure of the Knesset lists, we will endeavor to form the largest union possible to the right of the Likud, which will prevent the risk of wasting votes and the establishment of a left-wing government."
He said that "on Monday afternoon, after hours of lengthy discussions, we met with representatives from Bayit Yehudi at Rabbi Haim Druckman's home, with a clear intention from both parties to leave with a signed agreement to be ratified later in the evening by both parties.
"A fundamental requirement that formed the basis of the entire agreement was the signing of the parties' merger agreement and entry into the process of the merger immediately – in order to bring a line of unity to the religious Zionist public, as we had promised at the outset," he said.
He explained that, "in order to ensure that the merger doesn't dissolve after the elections and remains solely an election promise, the merger agreement included a clear process and deadlines for its realization and election of the joint party's chairman – as well as a guarantee for the realization of the merger, [and] a return mechanism that transfers the merger powers from the chairmen and party centers over to a joint committee that will ensure its implementation, avoid its dissolution by either party – and even be empowered to set the selection process on its own if one of the parties torpedoes the merger or the holding of the primaries.
The explosion in negotiations took place after Monday's announcement from the New Right Party that it will run independently in the elections, and that the National Union Party, led by Smotrich, will join the right-wing union. However, it should be noted that no official decision has yet been made on whether or not Bayit Yehudi and the Naitonal Union will merge.
The New Right was established in December 2018 by Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, after they left Bayit Yehudi. In the elections for the 21st Knesset, the party ran independently and did not clear the electoral threshold. In the elections for the 22nd Knesset, it ran as part of the Yamina union, winning three seats out of seven for the entire list.
Idan Zonshine translated this story.