Ayelet Shaked announces she is running with Bennett, New Right

Tensions are also rising between Bayit Yehudi, National Union over a joint election run.

Head of New Right party Naftali Bennett [L] and MK Ayelet Shaked [R] (photo credit: AVRAHAM SASSONI)
Head of New Right party Naftali Bennett [L] and MK Ayelet Shaked [R]
(photo credit: AVRAHAM SASSONI)
Ayelet Shaked announced on Thursday that she will be running with Naftali Bennett and the New Right party in the upcoming elections, after doubts were raised again about her political intentions.
Shaked will have the number two spot on the New Right list but she and Bennett will be co-chairs of the party. It is not yet clear who from Bennett and Shaked will get the most senior ministerial role.
On Monday, New Right launched its new election campaign but Shaked was conspicuously absent from the announcement.
Sources in Bayit Yehudi and National Union told The Jerusalem Post that Shaked was considering joining them due to concerns that she had been marginalized in New Right’s last campaign despite heading its electoral list and the combined list of all three parties.
And Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman also reportedly courted Shaked’s allegiance.
During the last election cycle, Shaked joined her party co-founder Bennett on the New Right slate less than two weeks before the deadline for submitting party lists to the Central Election Committee.
Sources in New Right said that this time around she was never seriously considering other options.
As Shaked announced her decision to remain with New Right, tensions and concerns are rising between Bayit Yehudi and National Union of the religious-Zionist political camp over the framework within which the two parties will run in the upcoming election.
National Union head Betzalel Smotrich is angling for a complete union of both parties, followed by a swift process to obtain party members who would then vote in open primaries for the leadership and electoral list of the new party.
Bayit Yehudi leader Rabbi Rafi Peretz is insistent however that there is neither time nor money for the complex and expensive process suggested by Smotrich.
In addition, Bayit Yehudi says it is concerned that the process could be hijacked by supporters of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party who could vote en masse for senior party leader Itamar Ben Gvir and install him either as leader or ahead of Peretz and other Bayit Yehudi candidates.
On Wednesday, Smotrich made public a list of possible suggestions for bringing the parties together but insisted that there must be some form of broader selection process, preferably from the religious-Zionist sector, in order to retain its faith in the parties representing that public.
“A party which wants to live and is requesting the public trust must be awake to its impulses,” said Smotrich. “Its leaders cannot shut themselves off in a sealed room and create a program disconnected from the desires of the public.”
Smotrich would likely benefit from primaries since he is perceived as a more charismatic and dynamic personality than Peretz, who is concerned about being pushed aside during any open primaries process.
But Ben Gvir has also strongly backed open primaries, and on Thursday rejected arguments that they could not be conducted by Jan. 15 when party lists must be submitted to the Central Elections Committee.
“If the Likud can organize primaries in such a short space of time, then the religious-Zionist parties can also decide quickly and begin that process,” he argued.
The religious-Zionist parties and Otzma are in an unenviable electoral position at present, with opinion polls routinely putting a party consisting of Bayit Yehudi and National Union below the electoral threshold of 3.25% of the electorate, and therefore out of the Knesset, although some have it just barely passing.
Otzma Yehudit received 84,000 votes when it ran by itself in the September election, not much more than half of the approximately 150,000 votes that will likely be needed to enter the Knesset in the next election.
Leaders of New Right, which ran together with Bayit Yehudi and National Union in the September election, have stated publicly that the party will be running independently.
The other three parties therefore have little alternative but to run together in order to guarantee they make it into the Knesset.
Several sources from the different parties said on Thursday that in light of the current stalemate and the short time frame to submit party lists to the CEC, the most likely outcome is that Bayit Yehudi and National Union will simply form an electoral alliance in the manner they have done in other recent elections without fully uniting.
An agreement would then be worked out with Otzma giving Ben Gvir a prominent and easily obtainable spot on the electoral list, bearing in mind his 84,000 votes make Otzma probably larger than either Bayit Yehudi or National Union.
It is unclear who will lead the party however.