Late night drama: right unite for Knesset election, but not totally

The leader of Otzma Yehudit, the party kept off the combined list, charges that he and his followers were betrayed and stabbed in the back.

By World Israel News Staff

There was high political drama in the Knesset on Wednesday night as the Central Elections Committee extended its 10 pm deadline for parties to submit their lists of candidates to run in the March 2 parliamentary election.

It wasn’t until midnight that the dust settled regarding the composition of a list comprised of various right-wing parties which had been negotiating among themselves until the deadline and beyond and were being pressured by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to join forces.

Ultimately it was determined that the list would consist of representatives of the New Right, Jewish Home, and National Union parties. The Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Strength) party was kept off the list.

“Together!” exclaimed Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich, leader of National Union, in a tweet.

“I congratulate my partners on the agreement,” he wrote. “Religious Zionism is setting out on the road together.”

The list is to be headed by Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of New Right, who had insisted on keeping Otzma Yehudit off the list, arguing that the party had an extremist agenda regarding Arabs.

However, Jewish Home had earlier agreed to run together with Otzma Yehudit.

A meeting on Wednesday evening between Bennett and Jewish Home leader Education Minister Rafi Peretz broke up without an agreement on the issue. The two were then summoned by Netanyahu to the Prime Minister’s Office for a meeting even as the 10 pm deadline for submission of lists approached.

Peretz agreed to back away from his agreement with Otzma Yehudit.

Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben Gvir said that he felt betrayed.

“The education minister stuck a knife in my back and in the back of 84,000 people who supported me. It was not only him but all of the politicians in Religious Zionism,” Ben Gvir charged.

After two Knesset elections in 2019 which did not produce a new government coalition, Netanyahu was urging unity in the Right to help the chances of attaining a better result in the upcoming March election.

Among left-wing parties, Labor and Meretz decided to run as a merged list and MK Stav Shaffir, who was kept out, announced on Wednesday that she would not be running separately, and would take a break from parliamentary life, in order to avoid creating a split within the Left, which is trying to replace Netanyahu with Blue and White leader MK Benny Gantz as prime minister.