Jewish Home party leader won’t concede position to popular Ayelet Shaked

Despite Ayelet Shaked’s strong popularity, Education Minister Rafi Peretz refuses to step down from his position as leader of the Jewish Home party ahead of the September election.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Incoming Education Minister Rabbi Rafi Peretz called for a technical union between all right-wing parties to bring about a victory in the upcoming elections, but he will not step down from his position as head of the Jewish Home party in favor of Israel’s most popular conservative politician, Ayelet Shaked.

Interviewed Thursday on Army Radio about the former minister of justice who had belonged to his party, Peretz said, “I am offering Ayelet Shaked to be number two on the list.” He added that he is “fully coordinated” on this with his current second, incoming Transportation Minister Betzalel Smotrich, who has already publicly offered his spot if it would help unite the right.

In a poll published last week, asking who should stand at the head of a united right party, Shaked outstripped Peretz by far. In a Ma’agar Mochot survey, he came in third, at 16 percent, behind the 34 percent who preferred Shaked and 19 percent who chose Naftali Bennett. Smotrich, who heads the National Union Party, came in fourth, at 14 percent.

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Bennett and Shaked currently head the New Right party, which missed entering the Knesset by some 1,300 votes in the April elections.

Peretz disclosed that his Union of Right Wing Parties (URWP) is willing to talk to any and all parties with right-wing credentials, saying “the potential for the Right is 70 MKs, and it has to be strong in order to get there.” That includes the New Right, even though there are bitter feelings over Bennett and Shaked having left the Jewish Home, the most prominent party in the URWP, to form a more secular conservative party before the last election.

Peretz also specifically mentioned the Zehut party, which garnered about half the votes necessary to cross the electoral threshold in April. Zehut bills itself as neither Right nor Left and did not endorse Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu before the elections.

At the start of the current campaign, however, Zehut chairman Moshe Feiglin, a former member of the Likud and known as right-wing, said he said he would endorse Netanyahu this time around. He also met with Bennett to discuss cooperation.