Ayelet Shaked calls for right-wing unity ahead of elections

The split in the right-wing bloc prior to April’s elections contributed to the coalition failure, as Shaked’s New Right Party failed to cross the electoral threshold.

By Alex Traiman, JNS

Former Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked told a group of New York Republican leaders visiting the Jewish state this week that Israel’s right wing, which unsuccessfully ran under separate banners during the recent April elections, must unify as a single political constellation ahead of Sept. 17 national elections.

“We have a tough challenge to keep the right in power,” she said.

Shaked told JNS that it’s unfortunate that the nation was thrust back into an election cycle for the second time in less than a year and that elections have created an unwanted “toxic atmosphere.”

Following the April elections, parties representing 65 Knesset mandates recommended Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for another term.  Yet during coalition negotiations, former defense minister Avigdor Liberman, who leads the five-member Yisrael Beiteinu Party, went back on his recommendation by refusing to join a Netanyahu-led government that included religious parties. As a result, Netanyahu fell one mandate short of forming a coalition, sending the country into a second snap election.

“We never had a situation in which a candidate didn’t establish a government,” said Shaked. “It is very unique.”

The popular former justice minister’s New Right Party failed to cross Israel’s electoral threshold following its breakaway from the Jewish Home Party prior to the April election. The split in the right contributed to Netanyahu’s coalition failure, which lost several seats to the left as a result.

“If we count all the seats, including those lost to the threshold, we had 63 mandates,” which would have been enough to form government even without Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu Party, noted Shaked. “The right wing needs to have 61 seats without Liberman.”

“It is the first time Liberman said he will not sit with ultra-Orthodox,” added Shaked, accusing Liberman of moving out of the right-wing camp.

‘Not so popular to say you are left’

Still, she blamed the failure to form a government on the left-wing’s refusal to sit in a Netanyahu-led coalition, despite the 10-year sitting prime minister receiving more mandates than in any previous election.

“What we need to do, all the right-wing parties, we need to get together,” said Shaked, who noted that negotiations between the factions are ongoing. “What I am trying to do is to unite all the small parties to have a large ideological camp on the right of the Likud.”

Shaked suggested that “70 percent of Israel’s Jewish population consider themselves either right or center. The left is shrinking. [Perhaps] 25 percent consider themselves either left or radical left. But they are very vocal.”

She noted that one of the reasons for the decline is because it recently became “not so popular to say you are left. So many politicians now say they are center because they don’t want to be considered left-wing.”

Organizer of the New York Republican Party mission to Israel, former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, suggested that parallels exist in the current political atmospheres in Israel and the United States.

“I worry about our own elections this year,” he said. “If we continue to let the far-left lead with that kind of mindset, we could see catastrophic consequences coming to our country,” adding that “the left in Israel seems to be similar to the left in the United States.

“It has always befuddled me how many on the left don’t seem to love their country very much. We are very much mirroring each other,” said Huckabee.

Goal to return to justice ministry

Shaked expressed her wish to return to the Justice Ministry as part of the next coalition.

“I want to come back to the ministry of justice. I put a lot of effort to promote conservative judges in the Supreme Court and across the wider judicial system,” she said. “I want to do it in the next coalition.”

She said that should she return to the Justice Ministry, she would continue to promote judicial reform.  “One of my goals in the next coalition is to pass a new basic law to set a balance between the judicial system and the Knesset. If we have the right government then we will be able to do it.”