Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been misled by his American advisor, Professor Asher Cohen of Bar Ilan University said on Thursday.
Professor Cohen, a senior lecturer in the Department of Political Science, told Arutz Sheva that he is convinced the merger between the Likud and Yisrael Beytenu, which was encouraged by political advisor Arthur Finkelstein, will end up being the biggest mistake in the upcoming election.
Furthermore, predicted Professor Cohen, the merger will only end up strengthening the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) and its head, Naftali Bennett.
"Arthur Finkelstein misled Netanyahu twice: the first time was about Obama being re-elected in the United States and again now with the merger of the Likud and Yisrael Beytenu," said Cohen.
He added that the merger is "an unequivocal mistake which demonstrates a lack of understanding of the mood among the religious public. This move causes damage within the rightist bloc and contributed significantly to the Jewish Home party, which got a real gift. Finkelstein estimated the union would result in 45 seats, and we all know where this stands today. "
Cohen noted that the Likud's choosing to attack Bennett over his remarks on refusal of orders did the opposite of what was intended and has already strengthened Bennett.
"With every poll you see a gradual trend upward," he said. "Even after getting the most out of the religious Zionist electorate, the Jewish Home is gaining among other audiences. The starting point of the joint Jewish Home-Tekuma list was 5-6 seats, and now they've more than doubled that. The attack on Bennett undoubtedly caused many to be angry with the Likud and join the Jewish Home. The fact that the Likud itself turned the Jewish Home into a key factor in the election greatly enhances the party."
Bennett, who served in the elite IDF unit Sayeret Matkal, said during a television interview last Thursday that if he ever receives an order to evict Jews, he would ask his commander to release him from his position and added he would be willing to serve time in prison over this issue.
While he did not advocate refusing to obey orders, candidates from other parties and particularly from the Likud were quick to seize the opportunity to claim that he did.
The harsh criticism, however, did not seem to have hurt the Bayit Yehudi chairman – and in fact, the party is doing better than ever.
After several polls showed Bennett gaining strength, a poll released Thursday shows the party polling to come in as the third largest party in the Knesset, and is closing in to become the second largest.
The latest weekly poll by Kol Yisrael radio shows that Bennett's party is up to 15 seats, while the Likud-Beytenu is down to 34. With 15 seats, Bayit Yehudi would be in a solid position as the third largest part in the Knesset, nearly as powerful as Labor, which, according to the poll, would receive 16 seats if elections were held today.