Israel's Far-right Fears for Support Base After Netanyahu's Annexation Pledge

'There's no startup' to block losing votes to Likud, says Yamina official

Ayelet Shaked in Tel Aviv, June 2019.
Ofer Vaknin

With six days to go before the Israel's second general election this year, hard-right alliance Yamina is preparing a counter-attack against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose statement on the annexation of parts of the West Bank on Tuesday was interpreted as an attempt to win over far-right voters. (For the latest election polls – click here)

While settler leaders applauded Netanyahu's statement, Ayelet Shaked's Yamina, which portrays itself as the main bearer of settler interests, rebuked him. "Tonight, Netanyahu explained why you have to vote for Yamina, not Likud," it said in a statement.

Following Netanyahu's statement, Yemina announced that it calls on Netanyahu "this very night" to pass a government resolution regarding the Jordan Valley, just as Israeli sovereignty was applied to Jerusalem. "Legislation isn't necessary," Yamina stated. "We will stand by him and vote in favor. Otherwise the people of Israel will realize this is all cheap political spin design to grub votes, nothing more."

Yamina representatives are worried Netanyahu might push the argument that if opposition Kahol Lavan comes out of the election with just one more seat than Likud, President Reuven Rivlin will give the job of building the next government to Benny Gantz.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv, Israel, on September 10, 2019.
\ AMIR COHEN/ REUTERS

Sources in Yamina admit there isn't much they can do about it. Instead, they plan on concentrating on three other elements for the last stretch of the campaign: their own attempt to win over right-wing hearts at the expense of Otzma Yehudit, a competitor in the settler camp; attracting economic liberals; and discouraging seepage of Yamina voters to Likud.

Regarding Otzma Yehudit, Yamina sources say they'll stress the potential waste in voting for a party that might not make it into Knesset. However, recent polls indicate that Otzma Yehudit will pass the threshold, and Yamina is worried that revelation could spur more hard-right people to vote. 

Sources in Yamina say they have done their own polls and Otzma Yehudit won't get in, period. Another source in Yamina mentioned a conspiracy theory in right-wing circles, in which left-wingers tell pollsters they'll vote for Otzma Yehudit in order to skew the polls. However, in general the Yamina leaders realize that groveling before the Kahanist element could actually repulse more statesmanlike right-wing voters. The campaign to entice Kahanist voters is being handled by Bezalel Smotrich.

The second element of Yamina's campaign targets a more liberal faction in the hard right. Last week Yamina held a press conference featuring ex-Zehut figures, notably Gilad Alper, a radical in favor of the free market. 

The third element is to try to prevent voters from decamping to Likud. Channel 12 News recently aired a draft campaign ad featuring Shaked, titled "Netanyahu needs a strong woman" (an oblique reference to Netanyahu's wife Sara).

However, a source in Yamina doesn’t think that will turn into an actual campaign ad, and adds that the leak to Channel 12 was designed to make waves. Another party source admitted that it will be difficult to stop leakage to Likud: "There's no startup for that," he said.