Sara Netanyahu Attempting to Influence Habayit Hayehudi Primaries

At coalition event after Rosh Hashanah, PM's wife asked MK Uri Orbach not to support Naftali Bennett as part head, so as not to support 'elements hostile to the Likud.'

Sara Netanyahu, the prime minister's wife, is trying to influence the outcome of the primaries in the Habayit Hayehudi party. Mrs. Netanyahu attended a social event of the coalition after Rosh Hashanah, and asked MK Uri Orbach not to support Naftali Bennett, a candidate to head the party, or Ayelet Shaked, who is trying to capture the spot reserved for a woman. The prime minister's wife asked Orbach not to support "elements hostile to the Likud." The event was attended by coalition MKs and their partners.

Bennett served as head of Benjamin Netanyahu's office between 2006-2008, when Netanyahu headed the opposition, and Shaked worked in his team. Neither agreed to reveal their reasons for leaving Netanyahu's office, but Likud officials firmly believe that Netanyahu hopes that Bennett won't be elected head of the extreme-right party, possibly fearing that he would attract many Likud voters in the next election.

Orbach told Haaretz: "I feel ill at ease. I was invited as a guest to a nice event, and I don't believe the utterance you're quoting really matters, because for some time now, the prime minister is intervening in our party's internal affairs. His interest is that Bennett won't win."

Asked for the reason, Orbach replied: "I'm not aware of all the personal relations between Bennett and the Netanyahu family."

According to Orbach, "I didn't fully grasp what she said, and only afterwards someone else drew my attention to what was said. She didn't refer to me as 'hostile,' but asked me not to 'support the invaders,' or something like that. I didn't even reply to her."

Orbach was among those who led Habayit Hayehudi's move to open primaries, even though he might suffer personally and find himself out of Knesset contention, if he is chosen behind Bennett, Zvulun Orlev, Nissan Smolianski and Shaked.

The Prime Minister's Office declined to comment.