National Union head: Bennett, Shaked left religious Zionists in lurch

New National Union leader Bezalel Smotrich accused Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked of exploiting the Jewish Home party as a stepping-stone to their ultimate goals.

By David Jablinowitz, World Israel News

Fresh from his victory on Monday as the new leader of the National Union party, Knesset Member Bezalel Smotrich has came out swinging with verbal attacks on Education and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.

The two announced in December that they were bolting the Jewish Home party, of which National Union makes up a part, to form the New Right party to compete in the April 9 Knesset election.

“They abandoned the religious Zionist party in the 11th hour,” Smotrich said of Bennett and Shaked. As a result, he said, “there is now an all-out war in the Jewish Home.”

In an interview with Israel Hayom, he charged that the two leading personalities in Jewish Home had “used the party as a platform for eight years and then abandoned it without any preparation, leaving behind an atomic mess.”

Smotrich adds: “I’m not saying that it’s bad that we’re separating, but there is a way to separate.”

The new National Union leader, who defeated the incumbent, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, in Monday’s vote, argued that “Naftali and Ayelet didn’t enter politics to become leaders of Religious Zionism. From the beginning, it was a step towards something else.”

Smotrich accused Bennett of carrying out a “demonization and deligitimacy” campaign against the religious Zionist movement and said that he intends to “restore the pride” of the movement as leader of National Union.

Smotrich expressed confidence that the New Right will not steal the religious Zionist vote from Jewish Home. However, since the Bennett-Shaked breakaway announcement, public opinion polls have shown the New Right leading Jewish Home, with some surveys showing that Jewish Home would not garner enough votes in the April ballot to win any seats in parliament.