Right-wing Leaders Trade Barbs, as Israeli Coalition Talks Enter Final Week

Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel
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Member of Israeli parliament for Yamina, Ayelet Shaked, May 2021.
Member of Israeli parliament for Yamina, Ayelet Shaked, May 2021.Credit: AMIR COHEN/ REUTERS
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

Religious Zionism party chairman MK Bezalel Smotrich is leading the state of Israel to a fifth round of elections, creating “chaos” and bringing about “a historic defeat of the right-wing camp” in the process, Yamina's number two, Ayelet Shaked, declared on Wednesday afternoon.

Addressing journalists several hours after Smotrich accused her and Yamina leader Naftali Bennett of working to “establish a left-wing government with the Arab supporters of terrorism,” Shaked leveled a series of harsh criticisms at the far-right politician.

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 “For two and a half years, the State of Israel has been in a terrible chaos of elections, lack of leadership, internal weakness and unprecedented polarization,” she said.

“Our enemies also smell the chaos and raise their heads. Therefore, the right took on the task of rescuing Israel from chaos by forming a government.”

Asserting that Smotrich understood that he was to “blame for the failure to form a right-wing government” and was engaging in hysterical mudslinging, Shaked stated that Yamina was working tirelessly to build a new coalition and head off new elections regardless of the high political price it will likely pay as a result.

Shaked further claimed that Smotrich had misrepresented her party to the public and had engaged in politicking while rockets were falling and Bennett was working to bolster’s Israel’s case in the international media. 

 “Two weeks ago in the midst of the war, contacts for the formation of an anti-Netanyahu government were completely stopped and since then there has been no contact, direct or indirect, for the formation of such a government on the right,” she said.

“Bennett and I are turning over every stone to form a nationalist government, so far without success,” Shaked continued, calling on New Hope chairman Gideon Saar to “take responsibility” and “join the right-wing government,” promising that “there are formulas that everyone can live with.”

Smotrich rebuffed her efforts to enlist him in a right-wing minority government, she said, claiming he “refused to commit and then came out here with a false statement to the public.”

Earlier on Wednesday, at a press conference in the Knesset, Smotrich said: “Bennett and Shaked put right-wing voters to sleep over the past few weeks, created a false pretense according to which the anti-Netanyahu government was off the agenda, but in reality, they continued to work quietly, under fire, to establish a left-wing government with the Arab supporters of terrorism.”

Bennett and Shaked “even sent me messengers and offered far-reaching proposals, so I would agree to enter a left-wing government with them, save them from themselves and make the abomination Kosher. I will never sell out my values. Period,” he said.

As of now, Yesh Atid has still not received any sign of willingness on the part of Bennett to negotiate the formation of an anti-Netanyahu government. Members of that bloc have tried over the last day to check if something had changed in Bennett’s position, and were told nothing had changed. The likelihood that Bennett will join the bloc in the end is very low, they said.

Shaked is the main obstacle for Bennett in establishing an anti-Netanyahu government, and has been holding many contacts with Netanyahu and senior Likud politicians. But the two parties – Yamina and Likud – have still not yet signed any agreement, in which the two parties would run together if another election is called.

Far-right leader, Bezalel Smotrich from Religious Zionism party, May 2021.Credit: GIL COHEN-MAGEN - AFP

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