Leaders of Far-right Parties Trade Barbs as They Negotiate Merger

Hayamin Hehadash insists on leading joint slate ahead of September election, and split rest of the list 50-50, but Union of Right-Wing Parties insist it should be headed by a 'religious Zionist'

Ayelet Shaked and Rafi Peretz.
Emil Salman, Olivier Fitoussi

The right-wing Hayamin Hehadash party and the Union of Right-Wing Parties publicly exchanged barbs on Wednesday amid negotiations to form a join slate, as they were caught in a dispute over who would lead it.

Hayamin Hehadash, led by Ayelet Shaked, accused the Union of "insisting on leading in unrealistic direction," while the latter charged that Shaked's party "relies on opinion polls and likes."

Hayamin Hehadash leader Ayelet Shaked and No.2 Naftali Bennett speak to journalists in the West Bank settlement of Efrat, Israel, July 22, 2019.
Emil Salman

Hayamin Hehadash is insisting on taking the top spot in the slate ahead of the September election, and to split the rest of the list 50-50. Shaked would lead the joint party and Rafi Peretz, currently the education minister, would be No. 2. Following them, the Union would be allocated the odd-numbered seats and Hayamin Hehadash would get the even-numbered ones. 

The Union wants the two parties to be treated separately for the purposes of compiling their joint list.

>> Read more: Shaked wants to lead the right. Netanyahu will do anything to stop her | Analysis ■ The paradox of religious Zionism | Opinion 

In an announcement Wednesday morning, Shaked and former Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who is second on the party's list, said they propose that the leaders of the Union – including Itamar Ben-Gvir, who resigned from the union with his Kahanist party, Otzma Yehudit – unite to form a technical political bloc led by Shaked.

They pointed out that if the vote brings them an odd number of seats in the next Knesset, the Union would have an advantage, even though their own party is "significantly bigger" according to recent polls.

While they are determined to achieve unity, Shaked and Bennett stated, the Union leaders' insistence on leading in unrealistic directions could prevent any merger.

On the other hand, Habayit Hayehudi, which Bennett had formerly led, announced on behalf of the Union that "Hayamin Hehadash has resumed relying on polls and likes."

It added that in practice, Habayit Hayehudi-Union together have six seats in the Knesset while Hayamin Hehadash has none, and they shouldn't be trying to replace tried and true Knesset members with unknowns.  

Habayit Hayehudi suggested what it called a "fairer proposal" – "a triple zipper" that would fairly represent the three parties, which would be led by Peretz. The party didn’t mention whether Ben-Gvir and Otzma Yehudit agreed to reunite with the slate.

Union members oppose allowing Shaked, who quit Habayit Hayehudi to create Hayamin Hehadash, to lead the joint slate. Lawmaker Moti Yogev posted on Facebook on Tuesday that the religious Zionist party should be led by a religious Zionist who can also serve as a personal example for the younger generation, which is why they voted for Rafi Peretz as their chairman. He advocated for Peretz to lead the united party.