Likud fearful as right struggles to unite with deadline approaching

The right-wing parties have less than 20 days to iron out their differences and form a bloc that will ensure they pass the electoral threshold. 

By David Isaac, World Israel News 

With 65 days to go until the elections, and 18 days until the cutoff for parties to submit their final lists, the Likud is worried about the failure of smaller right-wing satellite parties to unite, Makor Rishon reported on Friday, especially when a breakthrough that had been expected last week didn’t materialize.

In September’s coming elections, it is critical for small parties to unite – that goes for both left and right – to ensure that votes aren’t lost. In April’s election, a significant number of votes were discarded as two parties failed to cross the electoral threshold – the New Right ( 138,000) and Zehut (117,587).

The paper reports that members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s entourage say Likud’s chances of forming a government are put at risk if the right-wing parties don’t coalesce.

The danger from the Likud’s perspective is greater due to Avigdor Liberman, who prevented Netanyahu from forming a government in April. His party is expected to gain more seats in September’s election, putting him in still better position to block Netanyahu once again, something he appears prepared to do again given his public statements.

According to Makor Rishon, Netanyahu’s associates specifically mentioned the need to bring in Otzma Yehudit (or the “Jewish Power”) party and Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut. Otzma Yehudit has headed in the opposite direction. The small, extreme right party with a voter base estimated between 20,000 and 70,000, broke away from the Union of Right-Wing Parties late last month.

Belle of the ball

The big question mark is where Ayeled Shaked will land. The former Justice Minister is popular and believed to be a vote-getter. She abandoned the Jewish Home party together with former Education Minister Naftali Bennett to form the New Right party ahead of the April election.

It appeared that her political career might be at an end, or at least derailed for a time after the New Right didn’t receive enough votes to enter Israel’s parliament. Netanyahu’s unexpected failure to form a government has given her a second political lease on life.

Athough a number of senior Likud figures have voiced their support for Shaked’s entry into the Likud, the idea does not seem to have Netanyahu’s support.

Shaked is therefore in talks to return to the Jewish Home party. Israel Hayom reported on Friday that Shaked delivered an ultimatum to Jewish Home that either she be placed at their head or that she’ll run separately. A representative of Shaked quickly denied that she’d issued such an ultimatum, and only said if unity can’t be reached, each party will run separately.

The recently elected leader of Jewish Home, Rafi Peretz, has resisted the idea of vacating the No. 1 spot for Shaked. However, he made it clear in an interview on Israel’s Channel 12 on Saturday evening that he was open to inviting her back into the party. “We’re telling her – come, return to politics. Today we need every vote… We want everyone,” he said.

There appears to be a strong desire among general voters for unity. In Thursday’s B’Sheva, a newspaper that caters to the religious-Zionist public, the editor wrote, “The great split in religious Zionism bodes disaster. Next time we need to run together. This was one of the clearest conclusions from the result of the last elections, in which three competing lists ran separately all drawing their main power from the religious-nationalist public.”

Makor Rishon, which also advocates a religious-Zionist outlook in its editorial pages, has called for unity in several columns over recent weeks, warning of the danger of a failure to do so.

According to Israel Hayom, if there is unity among the right-wing parties that includes Jewish Home, the National Union, the New Right, Zehut, Otzma Yehudit and the currently unaffiliated Shaked, polls show that the right-wing bloc will take power. Israel Hayom reports that its poll from last week shows such a bloc winning 19 seats in the Knesset.