Right-wing steps closer to real unity with reports that Bennett will lead it

“The Right will not forgive Bennett, Smotrich, and Peretz if they don’t unite into a joint list,” Netanyahu tweeted.

By World Israel News Staff 

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett of the New Right party is considering running as part of a joint list of “all the religious Zionist parties” in the March 2 Knesset election, Kan public broadcasting reported Wednesday. Israel’s Channel 11 reports that he may lead the list.

Earlier, New Right had announced that it would run separately.

Israel is heading to its third parliamentary election within a year due to the failure to form a governing coalition.

In the April 2019 election, New Right ran separately but failed to receive 3.25 percent of the vote, the minimum required by Israeli law to enter parliament.

In the next ballot, in September, New Right ran jointly with other right-wing parties, and in fact, headed the list with former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. The bloc, called Yemina, won seven seats in the 120-member Knesset.

However, the most extreme of the right-wing parties, Otzma Yehudit (or “Jewish Power”), was left off the list in September. It ran separately and failed to pass the minimum threshold, costing the right tens of thousands of votes.

This time, Otzma has already joined in a merger with the Jewish Home party, paving the way for a comprehensive right-wing bloc.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been encouraging a joint run of all the parties.

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“The Right will not forgive Bennett, Smotrich, and Peretz if they don’t unite into a joint list,” the prime minister tweeted last weekend.

Bezalel Smotrich and Rafi Peretz head two right-wing parties which have run together in the past.

Bennett met with Smotrich on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of a joint run in March, Kan reported, adding that Netanyahu met with both of them.

Though the public broadcaster referred to the potential joint effort as a list of religious parties, New Right is a mixed party: Bennett is religious but Shaked is a secular Jew, and the party takes pride in its mixed representation.

However, for Netanyahu, the important element is bolstering the Right.

Public opinion polls have shown the prime minister’s Likud party losing some ground to its main challenger Blue and White, but a strong showing by a joint Right list could help Netanyahu ultimately garner a majority coalition to finally form a new government.