New Right, Zehut hope soldiers’ votes will save them

Feiglin, thought to be kingmaker, falls far below threshold; Bennett and Shaked need only 4,275 more votes to get into Knesset.

 Moshe Feiglin at The Jerusalem Post elections conference, April 3rd, 2019 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Moshe Feiglin at The Jerusalem Post elections conference, April 3rd, 2019
Neither the New Right nor Zehut passed the threshold as of Wednesday, when the vast majority of votes had been counted, but their leaders held out hope that the soldiers’ votes – expected to be counted by Thursday morning – would push them over the 3.25% electoral threshold.
Both parties consistently polled over the threshold in the weeks preceding the election, while Kulanu and, even more so, Yisrael Beytenu appeared to be at risk of dropping out of the Knesset. Yet their fortunes were reversed in the real election results.
The New Right reached 3.14% of the vote, or 127,504 votes, making it far more likely to get into the Knesset from the soldiers’ votes than Zehut, which received 2.51% of the vote or 101,707 votes.
Still, The New Right needs 4,275 of the votes from the soldiers, diplomats, sailors and others that are counted late to win, and with 40 parties in the running, it is a long-shot scenario.
Before the soldiers’ votes were counted, the number of votes needed to get into the Knesset was 131,779, but that will rise slightly.
New Right co-leader Naftali Bennett made a statement outside his home in Ra’anana on Wednesday, saying: “I gave what I could my entire life for the good of this nation. I was always a soldier of the country, as a fighter in Sayeret Matkal [Reconnaissance Unit], as a hi-tech entrepreneur, as Education Minister and as a member of the Security Cabinet during Operation Protective Edge.”
“Now the soldiers will decide where I’ll continue to fight for them,” Bennett added. “What’s certain is that I will never stop giving my all for the State of Israel.”
Bennett also wrote on social media calling for voters to check the results at their local polling places to see if they think there are irregularities
“We won’t just wait, we’ll act,” he wrote. “Individual votes could make a difference, and therefore we must fight for every ballot… Check if it looks like there are irregularities, like if there are zero votes for New Right, even though you personally know 12 people who voted for us.”
Bennett gave phone numbers for members of his staff who would check the individual complaints.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Bennett founded The New Right when they broke up from their former party, Bayit Yehudi, seeking to run in a less religious and more socially liberal framework. They argued at the time that the total amount of seats for New Right and Bayit Yehudi will be higher than Bayit Yehudi alone. The gamble seems not to have paid off for Bennett and Shaked, as they will likely be left out of the Knesset, while Bayit Yehudi merged with radical-right Otzma Yehudit to form the Union of Right-Wing Parties (URP) and received five seats, less than the eight Bayit Yehudi had in the 20th Knesset.
ZEHUT, THE far-right libertarian party led by former Likud MK Moshe Feiglin, was thought to be the kingmaker after the election, with Feiglin refusing to commit to recommending Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to form the next government. The party was polling well over the threshold, and their event in Tel Aviv last week drew close to 2,000 attendees.
Feiglin’s condition for forming the coalition including legalizing cannabis, and Netanyahu said he would consider the matter.
Yet in the four days between the publication of the last polls and Election Day, several parties campaigned against Zehut, including Netanyahu – who emphasized that Feiglin may not support the Right – and Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon – who wants to retain the Finance portfolio, which Zehut also sought, as well as the New Right.
In addition, a strange video posted online may have hurt Feiglin. In an interview with Dudu Bauchner, a comedian who has made a series of videos for Ynet, the two massaged each other’s own feet and poured alcohol on them. Feiglin slapped Bauchner’s feet, saying he’s the “extreme Right” and needs to “take out his aggression.” The video went viral online, with some joking he was high on marijuana, the drug Zehut hopes to legalize. Someone even posted it to the foot fetish section of the pornography website PornHub. Feiglin defended the video, saying it was “in the spirit of Purim,” but posted online weeks later. “When you’re in Rome, act like a Roman and try to enjoy yourself,” Feiglin said in an interview with Channel 12.
On Tuesday night, Feiglin said “nobody knows this evening whether Zehut is in or out, and it’s possible that even tomorrow we won’t know… I request that, despite all the confusion, keep the faith and don’t give up on the counting of each and every ballot slip until the very end.”
Feiglin also claimed that soldiers’ votes are worth approximately eight Knesset seats.