Justice Minister Shaked: The right can unite against a left bloc

Speaking as an early election is called, the justice minister says her party would also demand the defense portfolio in a new government.

By David Jablinowitz, World Israel News

One of the leading figures on the right of the Israeli political spectrum says that she is not worried about talk of a unified front on the left in the April parliamentary election.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked told the Ynet news service: “If there is a large left bloc and their parties unite, certainly there will be joint moves made on the right as well. There is no question.”

There is heightened speculation that former IDF military chief Benny Gantz would join, or even lead, a left-center bloc to revitalize a segment of the Israeli political arena that has been faltering in recent years. Benjamin Netanyahu has served as prime minister in three terms since 2009, and before that during 1996-1999. He is considered a rightist but pragmatist, and the ideological constellations of his governments have varied based on the performances of various parties in the elections.

Shaked acknowledges the different shades of Netanyahu, who is hoping for yet another term as prime minister. Her Jewish Home (Bayit Yehudi) party has waved the right-wing banner in the outgoing government, which has been considered the most conservative Netanyahu coalition, and she hopes to expand her party’s reach to have even greater influence after the April ballot.

“We will demand the defense portfolio,” said Shaked, adding that she wishes to remain as justice minister and that party head Naftali Bennett should serve as defense minister. To make the demand, however, she acknowledges that her party must do better in the Knesset election to garner more clout among Netanyahu and his Likud party colleagues, or even prevent Netanyahu from bringing in more center-left parties into his government.

After Netanyahu’s defense minister Avigdor Liberman resigned in November, Jewish Home made the demand that Bennett take his place, and even threatened to strip the government of its parliamentary majority by bolting the coalition if their demand was not met. However, Bennett backed down after Netanyahu warned that the country was facing serious security challenges, saying that to force an early election would be irresponsible. Netanyahu has himself been serving as defense minister since.

Shaked was asked in the interview on Tuesday if she now believes that Netanyahu was politically manipulating them last month and that there was really no particular security threat at the time. She replied: “I don’t want to go into it.” She added, however: “I don’t think that the security situation has basically changed.”

The Knesset is expected to complete legislation by the end of its Wednesday session to officially proclaim Apirl 9 as election day.