Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
MK Bezalel Smotrich (2R) during Knesset committee debate

National Union Chairman MK Bezalel Samotrich on Wednesday morning urged the new Habayit Hayehudi chairman, Rabbi Rafi Peretz, to complete his negotiations with Smotrich’s party before it’s too late.

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“Time is running against us, I don’t understand why it’s taking this long,” Samotrich told Kan, Israel’s Public Broadcasting Corporation. “As far as I’m concerned, I want this union to happen here and now.”

Smotrich said in the interview that he had gone down without any prior planning to a Religious-Zionist conference that was held by the Dead Sea, only because he knew Peretz would also be in attendance. “I spent the night here almost like I used to do in the army, on some sofa in the hotel, without my tefillin and without a change of clothes. I ignored my honor and my plans and the family I left at home, because I understood that here I would receive a back wind from all the participants.”

We concluded that the negotiations teams would sit all night so that Rabbi Rafi and I would sit down in the morning and reach decisions,” Smotrich explained. “It’s our job as chairmen, we can’t drag your feet.”

According to Smotrich, in the end a meeting did take place, in the presence of other members of the negotiating team: “There was fear [on the other side] about our meeting on our own, I can understand that, because I am experienced in politics and less,” he said.

The last time he and Rabbi Peretz had met, Habayit Hayehudi leaders felt Smotrich had taken their chairman’s lunch money, and so, as Smotrich put it, “they were afraid that we are not evenly matched, and I accept and respect it.”

On his expectations from the negotiations, Smotrich said: “I expect an equal division of leadership and roles – who will be first on the list, and who will be first in the various posts.”

He noted that the two parties had already been close to an agreement last Thursday, “but on Saturday night something changed around.”

Smotrich sees a significant dispute between the two parties concerning inviting Itamar Ben-Gvir and Baruch Marzel of the Jewish Power party into the partnership.

“I insist on this – I will not in any way sign a deal that will not agree in principle that we want to add Jewish power as a technical bloc,” he said, but was willing, nevertheless, to overlook it in order to reach an agreement with his party’s old partners.

Smotrich, who reportedly participated in the plot that launched Naftali Bennett’s and Ayelet Shaked’s New Right party, criticized Bennett: “I feel he is a bit distressed,” he said, and explained: “He said he would set up a non-religious party to increase the bloc and bring in secular, right-wing voters. After he had left home, he must have realized it’s cold outside. I don’t see the masses flocking to his party, so now he’s trying to not just drink our votes with a straw – he’s actually trying to drink our votes directly from the glass.”

“I call on our religious Zionist brothers to think about who can be trusted and where they feel at home,” Smotrich said.

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