Habayit Hayehudi Reserves Slot for Editor of Israeli News Portal Walla

Party members have reservation; one asks whether journalist-turned-politician will bring enough votes to justify reserved slot on party’s list of candidates for Knesset.

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Yinon MagalCredit: Eyal Touyeg
Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

Habayit Hayehudi, the right-of-center religious party headed by Naftali Bennett, has reserved a slot on its Knesset list for the editor in chief of the Walla website, Yinon Magal.

And some in the party have reservations about the move.

Magal joined the Habayat Hayehudi slate Sunday morning. On Saturday, the Channel 10 program “Hamatteh” reported that a slot was reserved for him and he won’t contend in the party primaries.

Avichai Rontzki, a former chief military rabbi and a close associate of Bennett, told Haaretz that “Magal is an excellent individual who is connected to faith.”

But Rontzki said he was not certain Magal will bring along the votes that would justify a reserved slot.

On the Facebook page for Bennett, who is minister of economy and minister of religious services, a video was posted on Sunday, welcoming Magal to the party.

In the video, Magal says of his transition from journalist to politician: “They have demanded of me that I be objective, but it can’t be helped: When our soldiers are deep in enemy territory I am not objective, and when millions of citizens are going down into the shelters I am not objective.

“I don’t feel any need to apologize for supporting our soldiers. It doesn’t matter whether I am secular, religious or traditional. I love the land of Israel, the nation of Israel and the Torah of Israel.”

Magal, 45, also has served as a reporter on Army Radio and Channel 10 News and later was appointed presenter of the Mabat evening news show on Channel 1.

As editor of Walla, during the fighting in Gaza he initiated the “Israel First” campaign.

Magal joins a number of candidates who are expected to compete for places on Habayit Hayehudi’s slate in the approaching election.

Among them are Rontzki, who heads the Jewish Identity Administration, a Jewish-values advocate that Bennett established; Ronen Shoval, former chairman of the Im Tirtzu movement, an advocate for Zionism; Danny Dayan, former chairman of the Yesha Council, the umbrella organization governing the communities in the West Bank;

And Eli Ben Dahan, Bennett’s deputy at the Religious Services Ministry, who moved from the Tekuma Party to Habayit Hayehudi; Professor Asher Cohen of Bar-Ilan University; Raz Kiel, a former adviser to Bennett; and Sofia Ron-Moriah, a journalist with Makor Rishon, a newspaper with a substantial religious readership.

The party’s primary election is expected to be held January 14. Bennett has the authority to reserve slots for candidates of his choice through the 15th place on the list.

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