Ahead of Israel's general election in April, Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennett, who serves as minister of education in Benjamin Netanyahu's government, and Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked announced this evening that they are leaving the Habayit Hayehudi party to set up a new party to be called "Hayamin Hehadash" ("The New Right").
"Habayit Hayehudi has become a significant force in the past six years, not a party that people ignore, but a party small in numbers but big in influence. We have achieved great things in Habayit Hayehudi. We halted progress towards a Palestinian state, and we stopped the release of prisoners - since 2014, no terrorist has been released. What has been done in the justice system is the most important thing in my life," Shaked said.
Speaking after her, Bennett said that in recent months the influence of Habayit Hayehudi on the government had ended, never to return. "We have gradually lost our ability to influence. Netanyahu realized that he had the religious Zionist public in his pocket."
Bennett recalled how four weeks ago Netanyahu had spoken of a security situation that required stability in the government, and the religious Zionist camp had fallen into line. "Now, four weeks later, Netanyahu has forgotten his 'blood' tears and sweat' speech and called elections to suit himself… friends, we have lost our ability to influence events."
Bennet continued by saying that he and Shaked held Netanyahu in high esteem, but "the nationalist camp must not be captive in one person's hands."
Bennett and Shaked are joined in their new move by MK Shuli Mualem, so that together they represent one third of the Habayit Hayehudi faction in the Knesset, which means that they can take their proportion of the party's public funding with them. The pair leave behind the more religious wing of the Habayit Hayehudi grouping which had forced them to bow to the authority of religious-nationalist rabbis and prevented them from recognizing non-Orthodox streams of Judaism or rights of the gay community.
The Likud party said in a statement, "Whoever wants to ensure that the next government will be a government of the right headed by Netanyahu and not a left -wing government headed by Lapid-Gantz-Gabbay must vote only for the Likud headed by Netanyahu."
It is clear to Bennett and Shaked that in the upcoming elections the Likud wil try to take as many votes as possible from Habayit Hayehudi, and they are therefore setting up a new framework capable of attracting voters beyond the religious-nationalist constituency which is the mainstay of Habayit Hayehudi's support.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on December 29, 2018
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