Following Religious Zionism Chairman MK Bezalel Smotrich’s victory speech Tuesday night, saying negotiations with Otzma Yehudit should be renewed, on Wednesday morning, Otzma Chairman MK Itamar Ben Gvir came out with a new stunt, announcing that he agrees to run together for the sake of the right-wing bloc. Ben Gvir signed a joint run agreement and called on Smotrich to sign the same agreement today.
On Tuesday, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu called for a joint run of Smotrich and Ben Gvir, declaring: “This is the only way we will guarantee a government without the Joint Arab List.”
Smotrich responded Tuesday night, at the conclusion of his successful party primaries, saying, “I heard the words of the former and God-willing future Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and I agree with him and call on my friends Itamar – let’s sit down as early as tomorrow with the real goal of promoting a joint run to promote the victory of the right in the elections.”
According to Ben Gvir, “About a week ago we set out on an independent path after we realized that Bezalel does not want unity and wants to appeal to the soft right, while we are receiving tremendous support outside,” meaning outside the historic NRP demographics.
Ben Gvir added: “Despite this, and as I promised, if Bezalel comes to his senses and wants an equal union, my door is open. There’s no need for another pointless negotiation and there’s no need for white smoke (a reference to the traditional way the cardinals in the Vatican announce the election of a new pope – DI).”
“This morning, I signed an agreement for an equal run,” Ben Gvir said, adding: “Bezalel, I urge you to sign today, and we can celebrate the unity tonight.”
Like most of what Ben Gvir does, this is an elaborate stunt, in his great tradition of street theater and provocation. The chances that Smotrich would hand over, as you’ll see below, five out of ten seats to Ben Gvir’s people are low, especially since Smotrich is still invested in attracting Yamina’s debris voters.
According to the proposed agreement, which Ben Gvir pre-dated Av 27, 5782, August 24, 2022:
As, out of a sense of great responsibility for the people of Israel, the land of Israel, and the Torah of Israel, the two sides will run jointly, in order to maximize the right-wing camp’s votes;
And as the sides wish to submit to the 25th Knesset elections a joint, united, and equal slate of candidates, according to this agreement;
And as the sides are interested in delivering a message of values on Judaism, settlement, nationalism, unity, light, and hope to the Israeli public with all its nuances: national-religious, traditional, secular, and Haredi;
Therefore, it has been agreed between the two sides that they will run together in a united and equal slate, led by MKs Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir, whose name will be “Religious Zionism led b y Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir.”
The slate will be based on the zipper principle:
1st place: a representative of Religious Zionism
2nd place: a representative of Otzma Yehudit
3rd place: Religious Zionism
4th place: Otzma Yehudit
5th place: Religious Zionism
6th place: Otzma Yehudit
7th place: Religious Zionism
8th place: Otzma Yehudit
9th place: Religious Zionism
10th place: Otzma Yehudit
Both sides will also attempt to add the Noam party to the slate, conducting negotiations together with the more extreme religious group.
Ben Gvir then went ahead and signed the agreement, leaving Smotrich’s bottom line open.
This document is not intended to actually create a combined and equal slate with Religious Zionism, but to siphon votes away from Smotrich’s extreme right. Even though the party’s top five candidates, who are most likely to make it to the 25th Knesset, are very strong in their right-wing agenda, Ben Gvir can always hope to grab a vote here and a vote there from them, as well as from Shas and UTJ.
By the way, those top five candidates are Bezalel Smotrich, Ofir Sofer, Orit Strook, Simcha Rotman, and Michal Woldiger.
And while Religious Zionism will probably make it past the 3.25% threshold vote, it isn’t clear at all that Ben Gvir will do as well. He may be better off accepting two out of Smotrich’s top ten: second place for himself and seventh for the follower of his choice. Otherwise, as Netanyahu fears, many thousands of votes could be lost to the right-wing bloc.