Naftali Bennett: Yamina will stay united

Bennett, Shaked, Smotrich and Peretz spend Election Day meeting voters and supporters all over Israel

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Did Bennett teach Netanyahu a lesson this week?  (photo credit: ATEF SAFADI/POOL VIA REUTERS)
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Did Bennett teach Netanyahu a lesson this week?
"Yamina will stay united," Yamina Party leader Naftali Bennett announced at a rally Monday night following the release of the exit polls for the day's elections. "Today, the Israeli sovereignty is established."
According to exit polls, Yamina should keep its seven seats at the Knesset.
After voting in the morning, Yamina leaders spent Election Day on the move, from Jerusalem to Modi’in, from Lod to Petah Tikva, while posting several messages on their social media profile to persuade right-wing voters to get out and vote for them.
The past year has been quite a torment for the parties, which united under the Yamina umbrella, both in terms of results and in terms of political alliances.
The New Right, led by Defense Minister Naftali Bennett and former Justice Minister and Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked, failed to pass the electoral threshold in the April elections. Ahead of the September vote, it formed an alliance between Bayit Yehudi, led by Education Minister Rabbi Rafi Peretz – a party Bennett and Shaked had departed – and with Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s National Union.
Together, the formations won seven seats but split into two camps right after the election. Ahead of the third round, a new ugly controversy arose when Peretz decided to form an electoral merger with far-right Otzma Yehudit, while Smotrich forged a deal with Bennett. Pressured by other prominent members of the party, Peretz eventually decided to give up Otzma to enter the Yamina alliance.
If passing the threshold percentage this time was not an issue, the number of seats garnered now compared to that of the current Knesset might play a big part of Yamina’s ability to influence the next government. Should Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu receive the mandate to form it, Yamina leaders may have considerable leverage since they have ruled out entering a coalition led by Benny Gantz and Blue and White.
Ahead of Election Day, the general understanding was that if Yamina ended up with fewer seats than it had held, the result would be considered negative, while eight seats or more would be considered positive. At least one exit poll gave the list only six seats.
Among the issues that will be ahead include what the likelihood is of Bennett, Shaked, Smotrich and Peretz being appointed ministers again – without forgetting that Bennett and Shaked were fired from their posts by Netanyahu last June, while Smotrich and Peretz, as well as Bennett himself, have been appointed by Netanyahu only during this period of an interim government.
The prime minister and his Likud Party might have actually represented Yamina’s biggest obstacle. In their rounds through the country, as well as on Facebook and Twitter, the leaders repeated that a vote for Yamina is also a vote for Netanyahu to be the head of the government. This was meant to persuade those undecided between Yamina and Likud to choose the Yamina and avoid the Likud’s cannibalization of right-wing votes.
“According to all the data we have, the Likud is very strong – around 37 seats,” Bennett said in a video shared around 7 p.m. while the polls were still open.
“This means that Netanyahu is Israel’s next prime minister. Now, the right-wing votes should be focused on Yamina.”
“The Right won, and now we'll make sure that the right-wing way wins too,” Bennett commented after the first exit polls were released. “As we promised before the elections, we will recommend to the president that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu establish a national right-wing government.
“We are committed to the right-wing bloc led by Netanyahu in order to establish a government  which we will continue to protect the security of Israeli citizens, continue to provide support to IDF soldiers, and defend Israel and right-wing values," he further said.
Bennett and Netanyahu talked shortly after the polls closed to congratulate each other on the results.
According to the exit polls, Otzma Yehudit did not pass the threshold.