Bennett and Shaked's Party Teetering on the Brink of Entering Knesset

Contradictory reports by elections committee cause confusion about whether or not Hayamin Hehadash passes threshold; Bennett demands recount

Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, April 10, 2019.
Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, April 10, 2019. Credit: No credit

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After an initial vote count indicated otherwise, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked's Hayamin Hehadash party failed to pass the electoral threshold, leaving it out of the next Knesset. The party is calling for a recount.

An announcement by the Central Elections Committee, which has almost finished its official count of all the votes, released contradictory information, leading to confusion about whether Hayamin Hehadash passed the required 3.25 percent to join the Israeli parliament.

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 22Credit: Haaretz

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According to the most recent announcement by the committee, Hayamin Hehadash fell short by about 1,000 votes. Meanwhile, Meretz gained a seat, bringing it up to five, at the expense of United Torah Judaism, which is left with seven seats.

Hayamin Hehadash is calling for a full recount. "We will not allow political tricks at the polls to work," the party said. According to Hayamin Hehadash, a series of disturbances in the management of the polls led to the problematic vote count, interfering with party observers, the soldiers' votes that granted another seat and the mishaps with the committee's website.

The committee's website showed Bennett and Shaked's party at 3.26 percent, just above the threshholed. However, the reported number of votes received by the party - 138,101 - amounts to 3.22 percent. The committee stated that the matter was being looked into.

The committees website showed discrepancy between the reported number of votes and the total number - which resulted in erroneous calculations of the vote percentage.

Bennett told reporters upon leaving his home this morning, "I am praying to God and will fight for every vote."

If they enter the Knesset, they would boost the right-wing bloc by two more Knesset seats, enlarging it to 67 seats in total.

The four additional seats would come at the expanse of Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid's Kahol Lavan party (which would lose two seats), the Union of the Right-Wing Parties (which would lose one seat) and United Torah Judaism (which would also lose one seat).

This would leave the center-left bloc with 53 Knesset seats.

Earlier vote counts indicated that the party was not going to pass, placing it 4,500 votes short of the electoral threshold. Later, the committee began counting soldiers' votes (which are always counted last), improving the party's prospects.

The other parties who performed poorly were United Arab List-Balad, which eventually passed the threshold but only by 8,400 votes; Orly-Levi Abekasis' Gesher party, which did not pass, and Moshe Feiglin's Zehut party, which fell 30,000 votes short.

The final results are expected by Friday. By law, the votes must be counted by April 17.

Yesterday, Bennett and Shaked refused to be interviewed. In closed discussions, the blame for the election results fell on Netanyahu and his "Gevald" campaign. The party also blamed Feiglin's Zehut for pulling in the young liberal votes that were up in the air after the split of the Zionist Union.

"Bibi's campaign worked and he sucked up our votes, alongside Feiglin who simply threw away one or two of our seats," said a party source.

Others pointed a finger at Bennett himself and the campaign that he ran. These critics believe that Shaked should have taken the lead, in light of the press and public attention she received. "We had a party with two leaders and it didn't work," one of the candidates on the party's list said Wednesday.

Members of the party said in real time that the campaign lacked focus and the differences between Hayamin Hehadash and Netanyahu's Likud needed to be emphasized.

Despite the initial disappointment, Bennett and Shaked maintained that their decision to split from Habayit Hayehudi was necessary. "Staying would have further hurt the religious Zionist movement and pushed our voters away, the movement was hurt by Bennett and our voters were distanced by the ultra-Orthodox. We had no choice," said a party source.

On Wednesday Bennett said he was waiting for the counting of votes by Israeli soldiers, hoping that they would boost his party.

"All my life I gave everything I had for this good nation. I have always been a soldier of this country. As a fighter in Sayeret Matkal, as a high-tech entrepreneur, as a minister of education and in the security cabinet during Operation Pillar of Defense," Bennet said. "Now it's time for the soldiers to decide whether I will continue fighting for them."

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