Netanyahu confidante calls for New Right’s Ayelet Shaked to join Likud

Likud MK David Bitan, considered close to the prime minister, says the former justice minister is a “serious person” and would be very popular in the party.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

MK David Bitan said in radio interviews on Sunday that he would like to see former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked receive a new senior post in a Likud-led government if her New Right party does not cross the electoral threshold.

“Shaked is popular on the right and in the Likud,” he said. “In my opinion, [Prime Minister] Netanyahu has to give her a ministerial position already today, even if they don’t get into the Knesset.”

He said that he had told her a long time ago that she should have stayed in the party, because she would rise very high very quickly.

“If she runs, she will come first and defeat Israel Katz, Miri Regev and Gideon Sa’ar,” said Bitan, naming three of the top five vote-getters in the most recent Likud primaries.

“Unlike other parties, we gladly accept serious people who are willing to contribute both to the Likud and to the state,” he added.

Although it was reported in Israeli media Saturday that in light of her popularity in the ruling party and the failure of the New Right, Shaked might return to the Likud, the right-wing politician put out a statement denying that she would do so.

The question of Shaked jumping ship would probably be moot if the New Right party does get past the electoral threshold, however, and Biton made clear that this is the more important issue right now.

“The bloc is what interests the Likud,” he explained. “If they pass, the right-wing bloc will grow by another two mandates.” The New Right would then get four seats, while the United Right and left-wing Meretz parties would each lose one and the Blue and White party would lose two, meaning that the right-wing bloc would have a much safer 67-seat majority out of the 120 in the Knesset.

As deputy chairman of the Central Elections Committee (CEC), Bitan said he was therefore told by the prime minister to try to help the New Right “procedurally,” to ensure that they get every vote that is coming to them. However, he acknowledged that “many mistakes” would have to be found for them to pass the threshold.

The New Right party is currently about 1,400 votes shy of passing the 3.25 percent electoral threshold. The party has claimed some 1,000 “failures and problems with the voting process” and appealed to the CEC to conduct a recount in a number of polling places where it suspects votes were lost. It also charged that there were problems with the way the soldiers’ votes were counted.

The CEC hit back at the New Right for what it called its “failure to recognize the Committee’s attempts to provide them with the necessary information,” adding that “every approach by the representatives of the New Right, by any means, was examined immediately upon receipt and without the need for formalism and forms.”

In a Sunday interview with the Kalman Lieberman program online, Election Committee Director General Orly Adas conceded that there may have been “human error” in copying the counts from individual ballot boxes to the record, which “causes the result to be listed in the next [party] list.”

She didn’t discount the possibility that the New Right may still cross the threshold by the Wednesday deadline for the final official vote results.