Bayit Yehudi split over merger

Economy Minister Bennett, housing minister Ariel trade barbs.

Naftali Bennett (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Naftali Bennett
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi party could end up splitting over differences of opinion with Construction Minister Uri Ariel over how to incorporate the latter’s more rightwing National Union into the larger party’s list.
In the 2013 election, the two parties ran together.
Bayit Yehudi’s MKs were elected in primaries among tens of thousands of party members. The slots reserved on the Bayit Yehudi list for National Union members were decided by a 35-member council.
Ahead of the next election, Bayit Yehudi politicians vigorously oppose giving away slots to the National Union who they want to merge into Bayit Yehudi, and its candidates to also have to campaign and spend money to be elected.
But National Union officials say their party is different, represents a different population, and that just like the Likud could not compel Yisrael Beytenu to hold primaries when they ran together in the last election, Bayit Yehudi cannot tell the National Union how to elect its MKs.
The clash between Bennett and Ariel escalated Monday when Ariel convened his MKs separately before joining the Bayit Yehudi faction meeting. When Ariel suggested stopping to vote with the coalition, Bennett complained that his behavior could result in Bayit Yehudi not having enough support in the next election to demand a senior portfolio.
“Because of you, the next defense minister won’t be from Bayit Yehudi, and there will be a freeze in construction in Judea and Samaria,” Bennett reportedly told Ariel in the closed-door meeting.
Ariel accused Bennett of “selling out the values of the residents of Judea and Samaria in order to take away a few more votes from Yesh Atid.”
After the meeting ended in shouting, Bayit Yehudi officials called Ariel “a serial extortionist and splitter” and said his threats to divide the party were unacceptable.
The officials said Bennett would not give into any ultimatum from the National Union or demands for several slots on a joint party list.
The National Union responded that Bennett was afraid to deal with the party’s values and accused him of being ready to split religious Zionism.
Bayit Yehudi announced late Monday that it will hold a race for leader of the party on January 5, the day before the leadership race in the Likud.