Israeli right-wing leaders meet to discuss unity deemed critical for election success

Ayelet Shaked and Rafi Peretz held a meeting on Tuesday to discuss unifying the right-wing parties ahead of the elections.

By David Isaac, World Israel News 

The two major leaders on the right-wing side of Israel’s political map met on Tuesday morning to discuss uniting their parties as part of a technical bloc that would ensure the most number of Knesset seats in the September elections.

Ayelet Shaked, recently anointed leader of the New Right party, met with Rafi Peretz, Education Minister and leader of the Jewish Home party.

Peretz is also head of the Union of Right-Wing Parties, an alliance that includes the National Union, a party led by Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich.

Peretz emerged from the meeting with a positive statement about the need for unity.

“I have no doubt that we will find the path to unity,” Peretz said. “All the parties on the Right must act responsibly and join.”

Similarly, Shaked described a phone conversation between the two on Monday as “very good and open.”

Shaked’s office released a statement of that earlier call, saying “Between the two there was a good conversation, that dealt with the need to deal as soon as possible with meaningful unification of the parties to the right of Likud, in order to ensure the success of the nationalist camp in the elections.”

Until now, the sticking point has been who will stand at the head of the unified right. Both Shaked and Peretz want the No. 1 spot.

Polls show that right-wing, rank-and-file voters want unity.

Their leaders appear to be listening, saying they’ve learned their lessons from April’s elections, when two right-wing parties wasted some 250,000 votes by failing to pass the electoral threshold.

The parties are therefore attempting to put together a technical bloc, in which they keep their individual party identity but pool their votes to avoid one party failing to cross the threshold. How many members and which ones from each party will enter the Knesset is determined beforehand.

On Tuesday, New Right co-leader Naftali Bennett, who has taken a backseat to the more popular Shaked, likened it to traveling on a bus.

“A technical bloc can have in it different views,” Bennett said. “Think of it as a bus that just has to get past a crossing and then can be taken apart.”

According to media reports, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to prevent Shaked from leading a large right-wing bloc, fearing it will take votes away from the Likud.

Asked about it while visiting the town of Efrat, Shaked said, “We live in a democratic country and only the public will decide if I will head the list.”