Yemina party implodes as National Union partner splits off

Yemina insiders said that Smotrich demanded four slots for his faction in Yemina’s future slate, while Bennett insisted on only two.

By Israel Hayom via JNS

Israel’s New Right Party leader Naftali Bennett and National Union head Bezalel Smotrich officially parted ways on Monday, after a week of reported tensions between the two over the Yemina alliance’s direction ahead of the March 23 elections.

Yemina insiders said that Smotrich demanded four slots for his faction in Yemina’s future slate, while Bennett insisted on only two.

Announcing the split, Smotrich said he and Bennett were “going our separate ways,” adding that Bennett was focused on the economy while he was set on “uniting the religious-Zionist sector, and chiefly to be the ideological right-wing voice in the Knesset.”

The New Right sufficed with a tweet saying, “Smotrich has chosen to split the right. We wish him the best of luck going forward.”

Yemina was formed ahead of the April 2019 elections as a faction comprising the New Right, Jewish Home and National Union parties. After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to invite Bennett to join the coalition following the September 2020 elections, Yemina headed for the opposition, at which point Jewish Home broke with it, joining the coalition.

Recent polls, however, predict that Jewish Home will be unable to pass the prerequisite four-seat electoral threshold. Last week, party leader Rafi Peretz announced he was exiting politics.

While it is unclear who will lead the party or even if it plans to vie for the next Knesset, Bennett is said to be in negotiations with its members to join him, either as New Right members or as a faction in Yemina.

A poll published by Radio 103 FM on Monday gave the National Union, running on its own, four seats — the minimal number of seats necessary to pass the electoral threshold. Yemina, without the hawkish Smotrich, was projected to win 17 seats, positioning it as the second-largest faction in parliament.