Key activists in the Habayit Hayehudi party have protested over the weekend following party chairman Rafi Peretz’s announcement that the party will run on a joint slate with the Kahanist party Otzma Yehudit in the March 2 election.
The activists are demanding that the team-up with Otzma Yehudit be nullified and brought before the Habayit Hayehudi Central Committee for approval, alongside a party primary.
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In a letter, senior officials representing Habayit Hayehudi on city councils wrote to Peretz that “No one will steal the party from us with political tricks. There is no reason for you to drag a glorious party into a political abyss and prevent the unification of all the factions of religious Zionism because of your fear of running in a primary.”
The activists accused Peretz of persisting in “political stunts without the [approval of] party members” so he could retain his position as chairman, adding that “Habayit Hayehudi is a party with institutions, not a party of one man.”
In an attempt to subdue the flames, Peretz posted on his Facebook page that the merger with Otzma Yehudit was just the first step.
“Religious Zionism must move ahead unified, while maintaining all the diversities within it,” adding that “these unions are needed to save the right-wing government and the whole right-wing bloc.” He also reiterated his call to National Union chairman Minister Bezalel Smotrich and Hayamin Hehadash Chairman Naftali Bennett to run on a joint ticket.
Meanwhile, Deputy Mayor of Modi'in Amiad Taub told Haaretz that Habayit Hayehudi “Has nothing in common with Otzma Yehudit and I won’t sit with them in the same party. [Their opinions] are not my opinions. As opposed to them, leftists are not my enemies. I don’t accept their style and I refuse to be branded as one of them."
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Yossi Harush, a veteran Habayit Hayehudi activist, also harshly criticized the team-up with Otzma Yehudit. “We are no longer Habayit Hayehudi, we’ve become a sectoral party. We have no interest in [being in] one party with Rabbi Kahane,” Harush said, referring to Jewish extremist leader Rabbi Meir Kahane.
“I want my party to represent secular Jews, observant Jews and Arabs who are my neighbors. We have Druze people in the party. What will they find in our party now? Signing of the agreement [to run on a joint slate] also means that women won’t be represented in the party," Harush said.
"What is the message now? That the hilltop youth [a radical settler group] is the best Israel has to offer? That it’s permissible to curse Israeli soldiers? We’re a party that’s supposed to unite the people,” Harush lashed out.
Habayit Hayehudi lawmaker Moti Yogev also slammed Peretz's move. “While I was seeking an agreement with the National Union, encouraged by Rabbi Rafi Peretz, the agreement with the Otzma party was signed without my knowledge or consent.
"The party's central committee should immediately convene to discuss the agreement, the way slate was chosen, and the [possible] merger with National Union while allowing the Habayit Hayehudi members to make the final decision. We are a Zionist, religious and democratic party,” Yogev said.