Religious-Zionists look to unite ahead of elections

Religious-Zionists want to enter the elections united, reports say.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Following the appointment of two of its leaders to important ministries, Israel’s religious-Zionist camp says its turning its attention to unifying its disparate elements ahead of the September elections.

After Wednesday evening, when the Jewish Home party will approve its list to run in the next Knesset, it will look to form a union with two of its former members, Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, Israel Hayom reports.

The paper reports on a scenario in which the top spots on a united religious-Zionist list will include current leader Rafi Peretz, followed by Ayelet Shaked in the second spot, Betzalel Smotrich in third and Bennett in the fourth position.

According to the report, Bennett and Shaked will meet on Wednesday to decide on their next steps.

Unification in the religious-Zionist camp is still in the very early stages. A source tells Israel Hayom, “There is a direction, but it’s too early, we do not even know what’s going on with Ayelet Shaked or Naftali Bennett.”

Unity may prove elusive as Bennett and Shaked had led the religious-Zionist camp before breaking away from the Jewish Home party to campaign as heads of their own party, the New Right. There is a question whether they will settle for less than the top leadership roles, having already held them.

Also, hard feelings still exist within the Jewish Home toward the two as they abandoned their former party without warning, leaving it to scramble to reorganize itself ahead of the elections.

Jewish Home MK Moti Yogev expressed this lingering resentment on June 12 when he said the Jewish Home should never take Bennett and Shaked back. He later apologized for his remarks.

Reports also say Bennett may merge with another party, Zehut, led by Moshe Feiglin. Feiglin has expressed willingness to merge with the New Right. However, he said he wouldn’t merge with religious-Zionist parties, which he describes as sectarian and Zehut says it wants to rise above sectarianism. Feiglin’s stance may force Bennett to choose one way or the other.

Neither Zehut nor the New Right succeeded in passing the electoral threshold in April.

Unification is a pressing concern for Netanyahu, who reports say may attempt to unite all right-wing parties into a single bloc as he faces a threat from Avigdor Liberman. Liberman, leader of the Israel Beiteinu party, prevented the formation of a government coalition after the April elections, forcing a return to the ballot box in September.

Liberman recently announced he would force a unity government between the two biggest parties, the Likud and Blue and White, after September. Such a move could lead to Netanyahu’s ouster as Blue and White, while welcoming Liberman’s announcement, says it will only sit with a Likud party without Netanyahu.