Eli Yishai
Eli YishaiEdi Israel/Flash 90

After weeks of tension and public calls for former MK Dr. Michael Ben-Ari's Otzma Yehudit and MK Eli Yishai's Yachad - Ha'am Itanu to run on a technical bloc joint list, negotiations have fallen through after Yishai's party made surprising last minute demands on Ben-Ari.

The two parties were in zero hour talks on Tuesday night ahead of a Thursday deadline to submit a joint list, when Yishai made an odd offer giving nationalist activist Baruch Marzel the fourth spot instead of Ben-Ari, who would get the sixth spot.

But that apparently isn't what caused the talks to break down - instead, it was that Yishai and his associates MK Yoni Chetboun and Rabbi Moshe Hager demanded that Otzma Yehudit members obligate themselves, and announce to the media, that they will permanently not ascend to the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism.

The demand raised anger, given that Otzma Yehudit has asked for Jewish prayer rights on the Mount, where the Jordanian Waqf enjoys de facto rule and has forbidden Jewish prayer, to be a key platform plank. Furthermore, Yishai's rabbinic counsel Rabbi Meir Mazuz has ruled in support of visiting the Temple Mount.

A source in Otzma Yehudit revealed that another demand was made by Yishai's party, forcing Otzma Yehudit to join a coalition formed by Likud head Binyamin Netanyahu "at any price," so as not to harm the budgets transferred to the institutions of Rabbi Tzvi Tau, head of Yeshivat Har Hamor and a key factor in bringing Chetboun in with Yishai.

This second request is particularly baffling given that the technical bloc paradigm by which the two were to jointly run would allow them to separate after elections, with both parties keeping their seats and Yishai likely joining Netanyahu while Ben-Ari would be in the opposition.

Ben-Ari has made clear that he would not join any coalition unless firm ideological red lines were set, such as not releasing terrorists, not freezing construction, not holding negotiations with the Palestinian Authority (PA), and not letting Hamas survive another operation - all of which the outgoing coalition did.

"You must not compromise on the Temple Mount"

The Otzma Yehudit source revealed that Ben-Ari's party agreed to Yishai's unusual request to have Marzel in the fourth spot instead of Ben-Ari, but a moment before the two sides signed on a joint list, the demands to not visit the Temple Mount and to sit in a Netanyahu coalition at any price came up.

The leaders of Otzma Yehudit counseled with Rabbi Dov Lior, chief rabbi of Hevron - Kiryat Arba, who ordered them not to agree to the surprising demands.

"You must not compromise on matters of the land of Israel and the Temple Mount," stated the rabbi. "Emphasis can be made on different points, but not on a condition that forbids ascending to the Mount forever, or to receive money for institutions and support Bibi (Netanyahu) at any price."

Following the impasse, Ben-Ari announced "we have a very clear statement - we want all of the land of Israel and definitely we will not give up on the Temple Mount. We were ready for a softened phrasing by which during the period of unity we wouldn't ascend the Temple Mount, but they want humiliation here, and to kick us out, and it seems they are succeeding."

"We are currently weighing our steps, it is likely that we will submit our list - we can't give up on our ideology, not even so as to be in the Knesset; we are in the Knesset for ideology," explained Ben-Ari.

Running together, polls showed the two parties would comfortably enter with seven seats, although separately polls indicate they both are liable not to pass the threshold that was raised by the outgoing government.