Israeli Right-wing Bloc Yamina Splits Into Two Camps

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Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett during election night at Yamina headquarters, September 17, 2019.
Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett during election night at Yamina headquarters, September 17, 2019.Credit: Dudu Bachar

The Israeli right-wing poltiical alliance of Yamina, headed by former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, officially split off into two parties on Thursday after it obtained confirmation to the move by the Knesset's Arrangements Committee.

Yamina, which means ‘to the right’ in Hebrew, was formed ahead of the September election as an alliance of three religious Zionist parties: Hayamin Hehadash, Habayit Hayehudi (which Shaked and former Education Minister Naftali Bennett split from prior to the April election) and National Union.

The slate has now split into two camps: Hayamin Hehadash and a joint faction composed of Habayit Hayehudi and National Union.

Shaked and Bennett will head Hayamin Hehadash.The other half, the National Union and Habayit Hayehudi, includes MKs Moti Yogev and Ofir Sofer, along with Education Minister Rafi Peretz and Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich. These two factions are now considering officially uniting as a single party.

The Arrangements Committee’s vote is considered to be only a technical step, in which the committee officially approves the parties’ decision to split. MK Kahana, the representative of Hayamin Hehadash at the committee meeting, said the split is meant to keep the party’s promise to voters: That the joint Yamina slate was only a “technical bloc” for the purposes of the election, meant to enable all three parties to reach the electoral threshold. Sofer told the committee that he hopes Habayit Hayehudi unites with National Union.

The split came in spite of a fierce internal disagreement within Yamina over whether it should happen. In recent days, Yogev has criticized the move: “What the people of Israel need at this moment is a unification of all the forces that it is possible to unite, whether in the government or whether in a religious Zionist party,” he said. 

Smotrich said a few days ago that an immediate merger is needed between his National Union and Habayit Heyehudi. He said he would ask Peretz within days to begin the process immediately.

Bennett submitted his request to split to the Knesset committee on Election Day, with the support of Peretz and Smotrich. But sources in Yamina say that the request was filed without informing Shaked – “but she didn’t hear about it from the media,” sources in Yamina said. “From the beginning, [Yamina] was about a technical bloc and cooperation in the government coalition negotiations,” a party source told Haaretz.

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