Israel elections: Progress reported toward merger on Right

Netanyahu set to reserve slots for Levy-Abecassis, Hirsch

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and MK Bezalel Smotrich (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and MK Bezalel Smotrich
Significant progress was made over the weekend in an effort to bring together the Religious Zionist Party of MK Bezalel Smotrich and the Bayit Yehudi Party of Deputy Jerusalem Mayor Hagit Moshe to run together on one slate, according to sources in the parties.
Neither party has crossed the 3.25% electoral threshold in any poll.
Sources close to Moshe said she is demanding the second slot on the list and another slot for her party in the top five. Sources in Smotrich’s party said the third and seventh slots are more realistic.
Former minister Zevulun Orlev, who is negotiating on behalf of Bayit Yehudi, declined to comment.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to see mergers to the Right of Likud in order to prevent votes in the camp from being wasted.
One undecided issue is whether the far-right Otzma Yehudit Party will be part of the merger. Both Smotrich and Moshe expressed concern over the weekend that such a bond would paint them as extreme, but such statements are viewed as an attempt to lower the asking price of Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben-Gvir.
“Smotrich’s party is stressed by the fact that the party is not crossing the threshold in any poll, so it is resorting to political spin,” Otzma Yehudit said in an official statement. “It is time to set egos aside.”
The Likud denied reports that a slot on Netanyahu’s list could be reserved for Ben-Gvir, or for a candidate from Smotrich’s party to make up for him taking Ben-Gvir.
Netanyahu will have decisions to make this week about how to use slots on the Likud list that are reserved for his personal choices. The Likud’s constitution committee gave Netanyahu the right to pick candidates for either the 5th or 10th slot, plus the 26th, 28th, 36th, 39th and 40th slots on the list.
The most likely candidates to receive the top slots at Netanyahu’s disposal are Community Development Minister Orly Levy-Abecassis, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Gal Hirsch and an Arab candidate.
The liberal movement inside the Likud said it would protest a decision to reserve a slot for Levy-Abecassis.
“Orly Levy entering the next Knesset would demonstrate a rotting of values and a rotting of politics,” said Veterans Party leader Danny Yatom.
Another possibility for the Likud list is former Bayit Yehudi MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli, who has joined Netanyahu’s party.
Netanyahu has reportedly promised Smotrich that if he unites the three religious-Zionist parties, the Likud would not campaign in the sector. Such a promise would make it less likely that the prime minister would give a slot to Moalem-Refaeli.