Netanyahu pleads with right to unite or risk losing election

If the small right-wing parties do not form a single party, the Likud may not have enough natural partners to form the next government, says Netanyahu.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

In a meeting Monday night with the leaders of the religious Zionist movement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that it is critical for the small parties that represent its various facets to unite before the upcoming elections.

They must do so, he insisted, “to save 6-to-7 mandates for the right-wing bloc. We can’t lose these votes.”

The Jewish Home, Otzma LeYisrael, Yachad and National Union parties are currently running separately for the 21st Knesset, to be elected on April 9th. In most polls, none of them are currently passing the 3.25 percent threshold, which would lead to tens of thousands of votes being thrown out.

This could be disastrous, Netanyahu stated bluntly.

“At the end, it’s either [going to be] a left-wing government or a right-wing government. The splintering of the right will certainly lead to the elections being lost.”

The idea of having a technical union with the Jewish Home has reportedly been tossed around in recent days, but it was nixed when the numbers indicated that this would not lead to the joint party making a better showing. Netanyahu was possibly alluding to this when he added that “according to our polls, uniting one of the parties with the Likud would not add mandates, so this wouldn’t achieve the goal.”

The more conservative senior national religious rabbis agreed with Netanyahu. First and foremost, they publicly demanded Monday that the National Union, which they back, should re-unite with the Jewish Home. The two parties have run together in the last two elections, but a National Union request for more parity was rejected on Saturday night by new Jewish Home leader Rafi Peretz.

The two sides have since declared that they have restarted their talks.

The rabbis also called for “other parties close to the great spirit” of the national-religious movement to be brought into the fold. This seemingly referred to the other two parties that came close in the last elections to passing the voter threshold – Otzma and Yachad.

Otzma is considered to be the furthest to the right, being fervently for settlement of the entire Land of Israel. Headed by Eli Yishai, the former leader of Shas, Yachad appeals mostly to a more ultra-Orthodox population that accepts the state and doing army service.

Netanyahu declared at the meeting that he wants to form a coalition identical to the one that has governed for the last four years. This would include the ultra-Orthodox Degel HaTorah and Yisrael Beitenu, a decidedly irreligious, albeit right-wing party.

The New Right, a party formed several weeks ago by former Jewish Home leaders Ministers Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, would also be a natural fit in a Likud-led government. The mixed secular and religious party is predicted to pass the electoral threshold on its own.