Bennett, Shaked Announce They Won't Merge With Other Right-wing Parties Ahead of Israeli Election

The defense minister and former justice minister are opting to run in the Knesset election alone as Hayamin Hehadash

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked at Yamina party headquarters in Ramat Gan on Election Day, September 17, 2019.
Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked at Yamina party headquarters in Ramat Gan on Election Day, September 17, 2019.Credit: David Bachar
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett and his political partner, former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, announced Monday that their Hayamin Hehadash party will run independently in the March 2 election and won't unite with other right-wing parties. 

"Hayamin Hehadash will run independently in the upcoming election as the party of the ideological and liberal right," a statement by the party read. The statement added that Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich, Education Minister Rafi Peretz and Otzma Yehudit's Itamar Ben-Gvir will run together.

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Agreements between right-wing parties Habayit Hayehudi, National Union and Otzma Yehudit to run together on a joint slate are indeed advancing, but have not yet been finalized. According to their emerging plan, Peretz would lead this unified ticket; with Smotrich in the second slot and Ben-Gvir in third.

Otzma Yehudit, the Kahanist party, is expected to add one more of its representatives to the roster – likely in the seventh slot. Peretz's Habayit Hayehudi is criticizing the far-right National Union's Smotrich, claiming that he is obstructing negotiations. 

Bennett and Peretz had met on Wednesday and on Thursday to discuss a possible merger of all parties to the right of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud, but senior Habayit Hayehudi officials said Bezalel Smotrich was blocking this idea.

The officials said Smotrich is refusing to run together with Habayit Hayehudi and has even refused pleas to negotiate with Peretz from mediators in the religious-Zionist community. Smotrich has said any union between the two parties – which ran on a joint ticket in the past two general elections – is impossible without a primary to decide whether he or Peretz should head the ticket.

Bennett and Peretz, meanwhile, disagreed on which slot on the joint slate should be given to Ben-Gvir. Peretz and Otzma Yehudit had already agreed to run together, and in accordance the terms of this agreement, Peretz was insisting that Ben-Gvir be placed in the top five of the joint ticket. Otzma also demanded a second representative in the top 10.

Shaked agreed that Ben-Gvir should be placed in the top five on the slate, but Bennett insisted he should only be in the second five. He argued that putting Ben-Gvir high on the list could hurt the entire ticket by driving away potential voters.

In advance of the April election, Bennett and Shaked broke off from Habayit Hayehudi to form Hayamin Hehadash, and ran separately from the Union of Right-Wing parties, which included Habayit Hayehudi and the National Union. Hayamin Hehadash failed to reach the electoral threshold. 

In the September election, Shaked led the Yamina right-wing political alliance, which included Hayamin Hehadash, Habayit Hayehudi and National Union.  It garnered seven Knesset seats, and Otzma Yehudit, which ran separately, failed to reach the electoral threshold. The alliance split in October over internal disagreements, with Shaked and Bennett breaking off as Hayamin Hehadash and leaving Habayit Hayehudi and National Union to mull a future union.

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