Photo Credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90
New Right co-chair Ayelet Shaked with soon to join her party, Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich, November 17, 2019.

A little more than one day before the deadline for submitting the lists to the Knesset elections committee, on Tuesday morning the National Union, a.k.a. Tekuma, headed by Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich, announced that negotiations for an alliance with its traditional partner, Habayit Hayehudi, has hit a wall. At 1:30 AM, Chairman Smotrich sent a message to Habayit Hayehudi saying that he is stopping the negotiations immediately, to explore the possibility of running on the New Right party list.

New Right is Naftali Bennett’s and Ayelet Shaked’s party, which left Habayit Hayehudi last year, disappeared in the April vote, came back home to get in after the eptember vote and is now showing a strong 7 to 8 mandates in the polls for the March, 2020 vote.

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The Smotrich move concluded more than a decade of cooperation between the two parties, which together have continued the historic NRP, occasionally with great success.

Last night, there was also a confrontation at the Habayit Hayehudi center, that even developed into physical violence, between supporters of Rabbi Rafi Peretz and of MK Moti Yogev. Peretz, whom the polls had predicted the seventh slot in his party had he dared run in an open primary, sees Yogev as the last remaining threat to his leadership of the Knesset faction, not counting the charismatic Smotrich. So, Monday night, Peretz demanded sole authority to negotiate with other parties, while Yogev demanded that his representative be included, to make sure Yogev is placed in a realistic slot.

Yogev fears that Peretz is planning to edge him out of the first four spots (no one is expecting more, and the majority of polls predict less, meaning Habayit Hayehudi will not cross the threshold vote).

After the physical clashes, Yogev got his way, and Habayit Hayehudi Center chairwoman Idit Silman insisted the physical confrontations last night were strictly on the fringes, just a natural outburst of emotions accumulated over a year packed with election campaigns. It was “an unusual event that does not represent the majority of events,” Silman said.

Make their slogan: “The party with internal fisticuffs only some of the time.”

The National Union announced that despite their demand that both parties sign a merger addendum, Habayit Hayehudi withdrew from the signing and asked to continue negotiations after the party center had been convened – meaning, take the deal and we’ll talk after the deadline for list submissions.

“As a result, the agreement and addendum were not submitted to the Habayit Hayehudi center, which consequently did not approve them,” said Smotrich’s party’s statement. In the absence of establishing the merger procedure, the merger addendum became a dead letter, and the basis for the joint run agreement was dropped.”

Mama Smotrich did not raise a fool.

And so, like the proverbial GPS, the National Union has announced a course recalculation, stating: “Without any real news about a real merger and democratic elections at least for the following election, it would be impossible to blow new life into religious Zionism to bring the voters home, and the list would have a hard time passing the threshold percentage.”

“In the time remaining until the lists are closed, we will endeavor to consolidate as big a union to the right of Likud, to avoid the risk of wasting votes and of a leftwing government,” the Smotrich announcement continued.

In Habayit Hayehudi they called a spade a spade, suggesting that “the refusal of the National Union reveals that party unification is of no interest to them, but rather, that they received a new proposal from the New Right.”

This is true, of course, except that, according to the polls,  the rapid moves by Habayit Hayehudi chairman Rabbi Rafi Peretz, who blocked Smotrich’s path to the top of Peretz’s new alliance with Itamar Ben-Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit, spell the death of the historic NRP.

May its soul be bound up in the bond of everlasting life.

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