Bayit Yehudi officially calls primaries off amid internal disputes

The language of the ads spoke of religious Zionists generally, allowing the National Union’s campaign to begin while clearly leaving an opening for an expected merger with Bayit Yehudi

Bayit Yehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich hopes to use his powers of persuasion, as in this November 2015 photo, to sell a new right-wing diplomatic plan. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Bayit Yehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich hopes to use his powers of persuasion, as in this November 2015 photo, to sell a new right-wing diplomatic plan.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
National Union chairman Bezalel Smotrich launched a campaign to keep religious-Zionist votes above the electoral threshold, while Bayit Yehudi officially canceled its primary, allowing it to choose a new party leader.
The National Union campaign accused New Right Party leaders Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, as well as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, as “loving, using and discarding” religious Zionists. While the ads did not only target Shaked and Bennett, the two ministers were emphasized, as they broke away from Bayit Yehudi to establish the New Right.
The language of the ads spoke of religious Zionists generally, allowing the National Union’s campaign to begin while clearly leaving an opening for an expected merger with Bayit Yehudi; the parties have been polling at just barely above the electoral threshold in some polls, and below it in others.
In a video, after showing Netanyahu and Lapid speaking fondly of religious Zionists, and Bennett and Shaked doing so twice each, along with the “loving, using and discarding” message, Smotrich was shown opening the door to a brightly sunlit home, picking up the religious-Zionist newspaper Makor Rishon from the doorstep, and his outfit switched from a shirt from the religious youth group Bnei Akiva, to an army uniform, to a plaid shirt, to a suit and tie, all the while with tzitzit hanging out.
“We’re in this home to stay,” Smotrich said. “It’s a responsibility. It’s a commitment. It’s being who and what we really are. For us, religious Zionism is a way of life. It’s a home that we so love.”
Then, the video ended with Smotrich’s smiling face alongside a slogan that could be read as a dig at Bennett and Shaked: “There’s someone to rely on.”
While the official campaign materials feature a kinder, gentler Smotrich, he maintained the pugnaciousness that has made him such a polarizing figure on his Twitter account. In one tweet, he mocked the New Right’s new logo, which features two triangles instead of the old logo’s Star of David: “I’m trying to understand, is a Star of David too religious-Zionist?”
Smotrich is front and center in the latest National Union campaign materials, because he is not only the new leader of his party, but he is campaigning to be the leader of the joint bloc with Bayit Yehudi, and possibly other parties, like right-wing extremist Otzma L’Yisrael, aiming to be solidly above the electoral threshold. 
Meanwhile, Bayit Yehudi’s selection committee is set to begin the search for a new leader for the party in earnest on Monday, the morning after its central committee approved a proposal to cancel the party’s leadership primary.
The motion was rejected a week and a half ago, receiving a majority of central committee votes, but not the necessary two-thirds to change the party constitution. On Sunday, 71% approved Bayit Yehudi Director-General Nir Orbach’s proposal, which also included having the committee appoint a woman to the third place in the party’s list.
The 13 members of the committee include Orbach, former education minister and National Religious Party leader Rabbi Yitzhak Levi, several rabbis, including Bnei David Mechina head Rabbi Eli Sadan, heads of women’s seminaries, and deputy mayors from the party.
This leaves only one realistic spot for Bayit Yehudi non-leadership candidates to run for in a central committee vote: second place on the list.
“Bayit Yehudi is alive and well,” Orbach said after the vote. “I thank the hundreds of central committee members who voted in favor of a decision that will be good for religious Zionism in general and Bayit Yehudi specifically. We have a lot of work ahead of us, and I call on all those who care about Bayit Yehudi to join and help us so that Bayit Yehudi will be a decisive factor in the next Knesset and government.”