Battle for women’s spot in Habayit Hayehudi heats up

Emunah said to be trying to convince 1 of 2 religious candidates to leave race so 1 strong woman can defeat secular candidate Shaked.

AYELET SHAKED 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)
The battle for the women’s spot on the Habayit Hayehudi list is heating up, with national-religious women’s organization Emunah working on a behind-the-scenes campaign to take down candidate Ayelet Shaked, who is not religious.
According to a senior party source, Emunah chairwoman Leora Minka is trying to convince one of the other two females running – former MK Gila Finkelstein and Shuli Mualem – to leave the race.
Minka’s goal, the source said, is for there to be one strong, religious woman who can face Shaked, who has a high profile because of the controversy over her secularism and the campaigns she led in recent years as the co-founder of the popular My Israel hasbara website.
Meanwhile, Shaked’s camp challenged Minka’s criticism of the candidate on religious grounds, pointing out that Shaked has the support of several influential national-religious rabbis.
“She is a very talented woman that proved herself in leadership positions. Beyond that, she has good qualities and is idealistic,” Beit El Chief Rabbi Shlomo Aviner wrote about Shaked. “As for a female MK or a secular MK – there have been such things in the past.
We should not focus on what separates the nation, but what we have in common, which is much greater.”
Former IDF chief rabbi Avihai Rontzki, who, like Shaked, is running with Habayit Hayehudi leadership candidate Naftali Bennett, took credit for convincing her to join the primary. He explained that she identifies with the party’s values, and can be instrumental in spreading them outside of the national-religious sector.
Though Minka did not confirm that she is working to convince female candidates to leave the Habayit Hayehudi race, she openly came out against Shaked running for the fourth spot on the party’s list on Friday.“That spot is saved for a national-religious woman. We need someone who can represent their interests,” the Emunah chairwoman said. “For there to be a woman who is not religious [in that spot] seems ridiculous and unserious.”
Minka added that she has nothing personal against Shaked, having never met her, and said the candidate could be a good fit for the fifth spot, which is for someone under 40.
However, according to Minka, as a secular person, Shaked cannot understand religious women’s issues such as national service and representation in religious courts.
Meanwhile, neither Finkelstein nor Mualem were willing to back down this weekend.
Mualem, deputy chairwoman of the IDF Widows and Orphans Organization, said she appreciates the support of Emunah, but that she is not running against Shaked – rather for a place on the list.
However, she said that the issue of Shaked’s candidacy is one of Habayit Hayehudi’s identity.
“Are we Likud number two, or are we a national-religious party? This is a question of the party’s meaning, its views and who can best represent its members, especially the women,” Mualem said, adding that she can represent Habayit Hayehudi voters in issues such as teaching religious values in schools and women’s status in rabbinical courts.
Finkelstein, an English teacher and former principal of the Tzeitlin religious high school in Tel Aviv who was a member of the 16th Knesset, would not refer specifically to the other women in the race.
Instead, she highlighted her three-and-a-half years of experience in the Knesset, including legislation to help special-needs students and agunot.
The former MK said only that “we are in the middle of a new process, on the eve of a primary that does not require a period of membership in the party.”
“In light of my experience, I believe in my power to get the public’s support,” Finkelstein added.