Religious-Zionist parties facing elimination, poll shows

Religious-Zionist parties are in trouble in the coming elections if they don’t unite, a poll finds.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The right-wing religious-Zionist parties are in a struggle for survival, according to the latest poll published Thursday in Israel Hayom.

Neither a united Jewish Home-National Union party nor the further-to-the-right Otzma Yehudit (or “Jewish Strength”) party passed the electoral threshold of 3.25 percent.

The former polled at two percent and the latter at only one percent in the Ma’agar Mochot survey, which had a margin of error of 4.4 percent.

According to Israel Hayom, Jewish Home leader and Education Minister Rafi Peretz has rebuffed efforts to unite with his party’s former partner in the last elections, the National Union, with which it is ideologically the most similar.

Peretz has reportedly also rejected a technical bloc with Otzma Yehudit.

In the last round of elections, the Otzma Yehudit party received some 84,000 votes, worth 2.5 seats. These were lost as the party ran alone and didn’t cross the electoral threshold.

According to Israel Hayom, Otzma’s leadership has reached out to other religious-Zionist parties to persuade them that their support in a technical bloc would mean success in the March elections.

New Right in good position

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett’s New Right party is considered to be in the best position possible to the right of the Likud, according to an analysis by Israel Hayom on Sunday.

His decision to part ways with the national religious parties with whom he ran in a technical bloc in September seems to have paid off for him.

He has backed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu throughout recent months, which apparently will help him with the secular right-wing base that supports Netanyahu despite the corruption charges.

Israel Hayom also reports that Netanyahu will not attempt to siphon votes from Bennett as happened in the last election as the prime minister saw that he “paid a very painful price” for doing so in September.

Serving as defense minister, a position he took over in November, will likely help Bennett win votes in the national-religious camp, which had punished him in the April elections for leaving the Jewish Home party to establish his New Right party.

This sector has longed for years to have a “real” right-winger in the position that is directly responsible for issuing building permits in Judea and Samaria. His tough stance against Palestinian terrorism and Iranian entrenchment along Israel’s northern border will also appeal to Israel’s defense-minded voters.