Likud scrambles to unify right-wing parties as deadline nears

Netanyahu reportedly looking to replace Jewish Home chief Rafi Peretz in bid to secure formation of broad rightist alliance.

David Rosenberg,

Shaked, Peretz, Bennett, and Smotrich
Shaked, Peretz, Bennett, and Smotrich
Kobi Richter/TPS

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is continuing his efforts to forge a unified right-wing ticket bringing together four small ideological rightist parties before the election registration deadline Wednesday night.

As it currently stands, the four parties – the New Right, the National Union, the Jewish Home, and Otzma Yehudit – are currently separated into two lists; with the New Right and National Union forming an alliance Tuesday morning, and the Jewish Home and Otzma Yehudit maintaining the alliance they formed last month.

After the breakdown in talks between the National Union and the Jewish Home Monday night, the Jewish Home has rejected calls to join the new alliance led by New Right chairman Naftali Bennett, refusing Bennett’s demand that the Jewish Home break its alliance with Otzma Yehudit before joining the alliance.

On Tuesday, it was reported that Netanyahu threatened Bennett, who serves as Defense Minister, and National Union chairman Bezalel Smotrich, who serves as Transportation Minister, warning them that if they did not allow Otzma Yehudit to join the alliance, he would fire both of them from his government.

Netanyahu’s efforts to force a broad alliance on the Right continued Wednesday, with the Prime Minister reportedly attempting to force out Jewish Home chief Rafi Peretz, and have him replaced by former MK and head of the Bnei Akiva yeshiva system, Rabbi Haim Drukman.

The 87-year-old rabbi turned down overtures from the Prime Minister’s Office, however.

Leading figures in the Religious Zionist community have expressed concern that the Jewish Home – Otzma Yehudit list may fail to clear the 3.25% electoral threshold needed to enter the Knesset.

A Direct Polls survey released Tuesday showed the Jewish Home – Otzma alliance receiving just 2.4% of the vote – far below the 3.25% threshold. A Midgam poll released on Monday, however, showed the alliance clearing the threshold with four seats, even without the National Union.

Peretz has hoped to bolster his party’s chances of clearing the threshold by adding well-known national-religious media figures to the list, including Sarah Beck and Shimon Riklin.

That move added to the Jewish Home’s woes, however, sparking an angry backlash from party activists who protested the plans to include outsiders high on the party’s Knesset list at the expense of currently-serving MKs.

While Netanyahu is continuing his efforts to bring the four parties together into a single list, he has also, according to a report by Yediot Aharonot, urged Riklin to join the Jewish Home in an attempt to boost the party in case it does run on a second ticket.