The heads of Israel's right-wing parties, ministers Rafi Peretz and Betzalel Smotrich of Habayit Hayehudi and former ministers Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett of the New Right party, met at the Ramada Hotel in Jerusalem last night in a meeting that lasted until 1:30 am, and agreed on running jointly in the forthcoming general election in Israel, on September 17. Gaps remain between the sides on who will occupy eighth place and downwards on the joint list, but the places at the top of the list were agreed as follows: Ayelet Shaked will be number one, followed by Rabbi Rafi Peretz, Betzalel Smotrich, and Naftali Bennett.
According to both sides, one matter that remains in dispute is the question of recommending Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu as the person to form the next government. Habayit Hayehudi chairperson Rafi Peretz wants Shaked and Bennett to give a commitment to recommending Netanyahu. However, having seen how, towards the end of the coalition negotiations after the last election in April, Netanyahu approached the Labor Party and tried to persuade it to join the coalition in exchange for the Justice and Defense portfolios, Shaked and Bennett argue that no such commitment should be given in advance.
The two sides are due to meet again today to finalize the remaining details of the merger.
Speaking on Galei Tzahal (Israel Army Radio) this morning, Smotrich said that he very much wanted to bring Itamar Ben Gvir's Otzma Yehudit party into the joint list, and called on it to enter negotiations. He said that Otzma Yehudit could have closed an agreement with Habayit Hayehudi before the merger with New Right, but refused to do so. At issue is the number of slots to be reserved for Otzma Yehudit candidates in the first ten places on the list.
MK Yair Lapid called on the joint right-wing list this morning not to collaborate with Otzma Yehudit. "The Kahanists are not legitimate candidates," he said. "They should not be in Israel's Knesset. Their positions are not legitimate. They should not be brought in just because Netanyahu is scared of going to jail." Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been lobbying for Otzma Yehudit to be included in any right-wing merger, for fear that small parties that fail to pass the minimum vote threshold for allocation of Knesset seats will weaken the right block.
As for a further merger with Moshe Feiglin's Zehut party, it is not known at present if this will happen. Feiglin said this morning that he had not received an approach from Shaked. "No negotiations have taken place, despite the fact that they all knew that we were willing. We shall therefore run independently, and we shall get into the Knesset."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on July 29, 2019
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