Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Yamina leaders Naftali Bennett and Bezalel Smotrich in the Knesset plenum, November 13, 2017.

Senior officials in the Yamina party are suggesting that the talks between Chairman Naftali Bennett and Bezalel Smotrich regarding a joint run have reached a dead end and are currently on the verge of exploding, Reshet Bet radio reported Tuesday morning.

Apart from the debate over whose people get the higher slots on the list, there exists a significant gap between Bennett and Smutrich with regard to the question of building a coalition the day after the election. Bennett is interested in the possibility of forming a coalition with the center-left parties, including Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, which is projected to receive between 14 and 18 seats – but Smotrich has made it painfully clear in his talks with Bennett that this is not acceptable to him and that he could not possibly join such a move.


A serious dispute has also emerged between the two Yamina leaders over Bennett’s plan to focus the campaign only on the Corona issue – from the health and economic perspectives. Smotrich demands that other issues be included in the party’s platform, such as reforming the country’s legal system, the treatment of Jewish tradition in the country, and the future of the Judea and Samaria settlement—most notably the imposition of Israeli law on the Jewish communities in the liberated territories.

At this point, it appears that the two leaders are on the verge of a breakup.

MK Bennett’s office issued a statement saying “negotiations are taking place as planned in order to complete them quickly and be free to bring change to the State of Israel.” Smotrich’s office did not comment.

Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked told Reshet Bet Tuesday: “There are always gaps but we will run together. Everyone here believes that any national-Zionist party that wants to work with us will be invited to a coalition led by Bennett.”

Yamina’s sister Party, Habayit Hayehudi, is expecting its chairman, Minister Rafi Peretz, to resign from his leadership post and make room for a new candidate. Three prominent candidates will probably run for the post of chairman: the party director-general Nir Orbach, former MK Moti Yogev, and Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan.

If Orbach becomes Habayit Hayehudi chairman, he will most likely unite with Yamina to form a right-wing, religious-Zionist coalition that could get between 10 and 15 mandates in the March election (Perhaps fewer, since the parties that were led by Naftali Bennett have had a sad history of doing great in the polls and failing miserably in the actual election).

But if Yogev or Ben Dahan are elected chairman of Habayit Hayehudi, they may unite with Smotrich, who would retire from his union with Bennett and Shaked, and once again the religious right would be split into two parties that would barely pass the threshold percentage and may even disappear entirely.

Currently, the Yamina party led by Bennett with Smotrich in it has dropped in the polls to 12 seats, after having already reached more than 20 seats. The factor that changed Yamina’s fate was the resignation of Gideon Saar from the Likud when all the center-right votes that were parked with Yamina moved happily to Saar’s parking lot.


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David writes news at