After the deadline for submitting the lists for the 23rd Knesset had been extended by Election Commission Chairman Justice Neal Hendel, who reprimanded Naftali Bennett and his partners after almost refusing to allow religious Zionism to be represented in the elections, on Wednesday night an alliance of three rightwing parties was finally entered in the race: Ayelet Shaked and Bennett’s New Right, Rabbi Rafi Peretz’s Habayit Hayehudi, and Bezalel Smotrich’s National Union – but not Itamar Ben-Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit.
According to the agreement between the parties, Naftali Bennett will head the united list. Ayelet Shaked gave up second place in favor of Rabbi Rafi Peretz and moved down to third place, and Bezalel Smotrich settled for fourth place.
The sad truth is that if the new slate does not receive at least four mandates, none of these leaders would enter the next Knesset, so who runs at what slot is very much like rearranging the seats on the ocean liner of your choice.
Rabbi Rafi Peretz, who signed a joint agreement with Otzma Yehudit chairman Itamar Ben-Gvir, and vowed not to abandon him – abandoned him.
“I made one of the most difficult decisions of my life with a heavy heart,” Peretz said. “This is politics, but before anything else I must be true to myself, so I apologize to my friend, Itamar Ben-Gvir, for having to painfully cancel the agreement with him. When the leftwing camp is tightening the ranks to form a government, a painful choice had to be made.”
Don’t you just want him to deliver the eulogy over your casket?
Naftali Bennett stood on his hind legs and stubbornly refused to add Ben-Gvir to the united list. He claimed that a man who hangs in his living room a picture of the killer of innocents (a reference to the portrait of Dr. Baruch Goldstein hanging in Ben Gvir’s living room – DI) can’t be a partner in a legitimate national religious party.
“I will not include in my list anyone who has in his living room a picture of a man who murdered 29 innocent people. It’s so self-evident that I’m amazed I have to explain it at all,” Bennett declared. He added, in a diatribe that included Otzma Yehudit, the Hills Youth and Price Tag: “Instead of building, they break. Instead of fixing, they riot. They bear deep contempt for the State of Israel and its institutions. Contempt for IDF commanders and security forces personnel. In their view, violence is acceptable. Conducting workshops for lawbreakers on how to make fun of their interrogators is a righteous thing. It’s just awful.”
He really did come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. 18 feet under.
There was of course a more practical reason for boycotting Ben-Gvir: Bennett et al know that Ben-Gvir’s presence on their list—because of his affiliation with the teachings of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane—would turn away many more votes than Otzma’s sum total of about 50 thousand supporters.
Ben-Gvir was deeply hurt: “Peretz betrayed me and stabbed me in the back,” he said, never mind all that belly aching over how difficult it was for Peretz to stick the knife right between Ben-Gvir’s shoulder blades.
“We did everything in order to go together,” Ben-Gvir wailed. “We agreed to give up slots. Bennett said today his problem was with the picture in my living room. So to save the rightwing government, I removed the picture from my living room. But apparently these people don’t care about ideology or anything, It’s a bunch that doesn’t deserve to be in the leadership.”
Yes, he actually expected that by taking down Baruch Goldstein’s portrait all would be forgotten and forgiven. Say what you will, the man knows his street theater.
Another victim of last night’s shotgun wedding was MK Moti Yogev, Rafi Peretz’s arch-nemesis in Habayit Hayehudi. He was dropped to 11th place, which effectively took him out of politics. So it turns out Rabbi Rafi is pretty handy with the long knife.
Yogev announced that he would not run in the upcoming elections, saying: “Rafi Peretz knew that his word was worthless. He doesn’t deserve to be a public leader.”
Now clean up the blood from the floor, boys and girls, and go get us a rightwing Knesset faction. Much success in your upcoming endeavors.