Rabbi Dov Lior, a leading figure in the Tekumah party that merged with Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home’s Knesset list, has withdrawn his support from that same list. The website Srugim revealed that Rabbi Lior was furious when he saw his name appear in campaign ads for Jewish Home, as part of an extensive list of rabbis supporting the party.
Rabbi Lior, who founded Tekumah together with Arutz 7 owner Rabbi Zalman Melamed and Rabbi Chaim Steiner, is the chief rabbi of Hebron and Kiryat Arba, the dean of the Kiryat Arba Hesder Yeshiva, and heads the Council of Rabbis of Judea and Samaria.
Over the past few months, Rabbi Lior has been expressing his dissatisfaction with the way MK Michael Ben Ari, who now runs on the Power for Israel list, was pushed out of the united list by his colleagues. Initially, Rabbi Lior refused to take public measures against Jewish Home, partly because he is related to MK Uri Ariel—who, according to Ben Ari’s camp was instrumental in his ousting, and to Orit Struck, who is a contender on the Jewish Home list.
However, after seeing his name appear in support of the party, Rabbi Lior’s office approached the Jewish Home and asked to immediately remove all references of his support. The official reason they gave was that as chief rabbi of Kiryat Arba and Hebron, Lior could not legally express a political opinion. In practice, however, it appears that Rabbi Lior is simply unhappy with the current path of Jewish Home and the conduct of its leader, Naftali Bennett, and prefers to express his support, in private meetings, to Power for Israel, headed by MKs Michael Ben Ari and Aryeh Eldad.
The Jewish Home campaign stated that Rabbi Dov Lior did clarify that he did not want to appear on the ad supporting Jewish Home, and his name was later removed.
In a somewhat cheeky tone, the campaign added: “We hope that this will not interfere with the Likud campaign, in which the honorable rabbi is involved.”
A spokesperson for MK Aryeh Eldad told the Jewish Press that the surprisingly strong showing of Power for Israel in a recent poll is marking a trend of several weeks, in which the list has been climbing from not even showing in most polls to gaining 2, then 4, and now 6 seats.
“Considering the size of the samples in these polls—500 responding with a plus-minus 2-4 seat margin of error,” the spokesperson, Naama Cohen-Yechezkeli, said, “we have no way of telling whether these numbers are realistic, but they do show a persistent trend.”
This reporter’s theory—which Cohen-Yechezkeli said was “interesting”—is that once it became a sure thing that Netanyahu would be the next prime minister, right-wing voters were looking to vote in a way that would force his future coalition government to the right; but once a string of anonymous revelations started coming out—fueled chiefly by Arutz 7, a media organ closely affiliated with Jewish Home—regarding Netanyahu’s intent to devote his next term to pushing a 2-state solution, right wing voters realized Bennett’s party couldn’t possibly be included in his government, and so they started looking more seriously at Ben Ari and Eldad to represent them.
This could be scored, then, as one more occasion when a negative campaign ended up hurting its source, much as Likud sustained damage by attacking Bennett a week ago.