Senior New Right officials on Sunday told Reshet Bet radio that they are not ruling out a last-minute union with their three sister right-wing parties, Habayit Hayehudi, which is already running together with Otzma Yehudit, and Bezalel Smotrich’s National Union, which used to be Habayit Hayehudi’s ally in five election campaigns.
This new suggestion comes despite the initial decision of New Right leaders Naftali Bennett’s and Ayelet Shaked to run on their own, looking to appeal to secular right wing and liberal Orthodox voters. The same party officials explained that Bennett and Shaked will wait two weeks, until the last day for submitting the lists to the central election committee, and should the polls show at that point that the separate parties to the right of Likud are tittering on the the edge of the vote threshold precipice, they would consider offering their potential partners to run in a united list.
On Saturday night, Channel 11 reported that there was a complete disconnect between Habayit Hayehudi chairman Rafi Peretz and National Union chairman Bezalel Smotrich, who has conditioned his joining his traditional partner on opening up their lists to new candidates in a primary election. Should he not be able to convince Peretz to go to primaries, Smotrich could seek a spot on the New Right slate.
Last Thursday evening, both Smotrich and Peretz met separately with Rabbi Haim Drukman, the head of the Bnei Akiva yeshivas and a spiritual leader of the religious Zionist camp, to examine a joint run for the 23rd Knesset elections. At the conclusion of the meeting between Peretz and Drukman, Habayit Hayehudi issued a statement saying: “In a meeting that was run in a good spirit it was agreed to continue making every effort to join together the forces inside religious Zionism.”
On Friday morning, MK Moti Yogev, a Smotrich associate, also arrived for a meeting in Rabbi Drukman’s home.
Ignoring the rift between their chairman and Smotrich, leading Habayit Hayehudi branch leaders and council members are meeting on Sunday with Smotrich in Ra’anana, to seal a merger as well as democratic primaries in all the religious Zionist centers.
Much of the rumble inside and outside Habayit Hayehudi has to do with a feisty move on the part of Chairman Peretz, who ten days ago or so signed a joint slate agreement with Otzma Yehudit chairman Itamar Ben-Gvir. Many in Habayit Hayehudi are unhappy about the move, which could drive away their more liberal Orthodox voters.
The deal presumed a union with Smotrich’s faction, with Habayit Hayehudi getting slots 1, 4, and 7; Otzma getting 3, 6, and 9; and Smotrich, should he join, getting slots 2, 5, and 8.
But, as we noted, for the time being there is a complete disconnect between Peretz and Smotrich, the latter still wondering how to properly respond to his natural partner’s going so blatantly and unexpectedly behind his back.