Ayelet Shaked, a favorite to lead voters to the right of the Likud, will make an announcement regarding her election plans on Sunday evening.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
Former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked has called a news conference for Sunday evening which could herald the formation of a mega-Right-wing bloc under her leadership.
Time is running out for such mergers to take place as only 10 days remain before the parties must submit their final lists ahead of the September elections.
Israeli news outlet Kan reported around noon Sunday that New Right head Naftali Bennett has agreed to let Shaked take the top spot of the party, which they founded together when they left the Jewish Home party before the April elections.
Even though they presented themselves as co-leaders of the New Right during the election campaign, Shaked had officially held the second position.
In doing so, he was responding to all the recent polls that showed that the former justice minister is the most popular of all right-wing party leaders by a wide margin.
According to Kan, they have also handed the Union of Right-Wing Parties (URWP) an ultimatum saying that if the URWP does not allow Shaked to lead the bloc, which would represent voters to the right of the Likud, the New Right will run alone in the September elections.
During recent discussions with Shaked associates, URWP head Rafi Peretz made it clear he wouldn’t give up his chairmanship to Shaked. This, despite the fact that he’s polling last among the right-wing leaders, and some polling data has the URWP gaining twice as many seats under Shaked as under Peretz.
As news broke of Shaked’s coming announcement, Peretz and National Union party head Betzalel Smotrich agreed to meet to decide on how to proceed. Sources say they will not give up on the leadership.
Smotrich, who also serves as Transportation Minister, warned Shaked and Bennett in a Saturday evening tweet against running separately as they did for the April elections. The New Right failed to pass the electoral threshold in April, leading indirectly to the failure of the right to form a government.
“If they make the same irresponsible mistake that will split the right, they will be held responsible for the result,” he wrote. “This time they will not be forgiven for bringing down a right-wing government and the establishment of a left-wing government due to [their] personal interests.”
Until now, Bennett had said that he is inclined not to join the conservative religious parties in order to have a better chance at wooing away the more secular and liberal right-wing constituency of parties Israel Beitenu and Kulanu.
“I prefer if we can create a liberal right-wing bloc with one leader, and have another leader at the head of another party that is a religious Hardal [ultra-Orthodox-nationalist] which is the Union of Right-Wing Parties,” he said to Channel 12 News in an interview that aired on Saturday.
A group of religious Zionist women has formed within the more conservatively religious parties to support Shaked’s candidacy to lead a single bloc, in an attempt to counter the many rabbis speaking on religious grounds who are resisting the move along with Peretz.
“Ayelet Shaked is a powerful woman with a political skill which is unparalleled in the right-wing camp to the right of the Likud,” said Ruth Ben-Haim, one of the female activists leading the group.
“She represents the loyalists of Israel and the Jewish people, and does it proudly, without apology. She respects the Torah of Israel and the tradition of Israel. We need her if we want to preserve and enable the United Right,” Ben-Haim said.