Israeli Right-wing Parties Announce Broad Union Led by Ayelet Shaked

Rafi Peretz forgoes demand to head party slate, expected to take second spot

Ayelet Shaked talks to the press in Jerusalem, July 28, 2019
Olivier Fitoussi

Former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Education Minister Rafi Peretz announced on Sunday that their parties will run on a joint slate led by Shaked, following weeks of speculations and pressure to form a broad union ahead of Israel's September election.

Peretz tweeted news of the union between Hayamin Hehadash and the Union of Right-Wing Parties, writing: "Unity is a common goal of all of us, tonight we will meet to discuss details of the joint run."

Shaked, who recently announced that she will lead Hayamin Hehadash, said over the weekend that “there may still be disagreements and gaps, but they’re not that big,” urging Habayit Hayehudi’s Peretz and the National Union’s Bezalel Smotrich to “make all efforts … to unite all of the religious Zionist [public] and the secular ideological right-wing.”

>> Read more: Gay conversion controversy reveals seismic shift in Israeli politics ■ Shaked, a secular woman, heading a political party? Oh, the joys of liberal fascism | Opinion

In a bid to attract the Union of Right-Wing Parties, Hayamin Hehadash negotiators had agreed to place the former’s candidates higher up on the joint slate than what had been earlier proposed. However, Peretz initially wouldn’t agree to forgo leadership of the joint slate.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara also pressured Peretz not to join forces with Shaked and Naftali Bennett. 

Rafi Peretz at the Knesset in Jerusalem, July 19, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

Peretz is now to take second spot on slate, followed by Bezalel Smotrich and Bennett. Negotiations over the makeup of the rest of the list will continue however the top 10 spots are expected to be reserved mostly for Union of Right-Wing Parties candidates.

As of now Kahanist party Otzma Yehudit is not part of the union. A party source told Haaretz that Shaked and Peretz have not been in contact with them since agreeing to run on a joint slate.

Earlier this month, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, one of the leading rabbis of the religious Zionist movement in Israel, rejected the possibility that a woman would head the bloc of right-wing parties in the next election. “The complicated whirlwind of politics is not for women,” he said in an interview with Israel Radio. 

In the interview, he referred to a document he had signed alongside other prominent rabbis in which they urged that Shaked should not be the head of the right-wing bloc because she is secular. 

Shmuli stays in Labor

Also Sunday, Labor's Itzik Shmuli announced that he will remain in the party following the resignation of Stav Shaffir. 

“Amir Peretz and I do not yet agree on the path, but we do on the goal. I tried with all my might to achieve a larger union of parties, but the democratically-elected chairman thinks otherwise, and now it’s his responsibility to determine the wayת” said Shmuli at a press conference alongside party chairman Amir Peretz and MK Orli Levi-Abekasis.

Itzik Shmuli, Orli Levi and Amir Peretz join hands at a press conference, July 28, 2019
Avishag Shaar-Yashuv

Levi-Abekasis, former Yisrael Beiteinu MK who split from Avigdor Lieberman's party to form her own Gesher party, focused on socio-economic issues, joined forces with Labor a couple of weeks ago.

On Thursday, Meretz and Ehud Barak's Democratic Israel announced the creation of a left-wing joint slate called Democratic Union, which some in embattled Labor lobbied to join.

Shmuli said on Sunday he would not compromise his values to "make a comfortable and promising exit to a different place, in the knowledge that I’ve harmed my political home." 

Shmuli had earlier assailed Shaffir for abandoning the party in its difficult hour of crisis, for the sake of a “comfortable work placement.”