Bennett, Ariel at Odds Over Future of Jewish Home

Argument erupts in Jewish Home faction meeting over whether to add Tekuma members to the list, leading to rumors of split.

Hezki Baruch and Tova Dvorin , | updated: 8:12 PM

Jewish Home party expanding its horizons
Jewish Home party expanding its horizons
Flash 90

Rumors of the Jewish Home party splitting before the next Knesset began to circulate Monday, after a faction meeting exploded in conflict between party chairman Naftali Bennett and Housing Minister Uri Ariel.

Bennett and Ariel conflicted over the composition of the running list for the next elections, as the likelihood of the current coalition dissolving grows stronger due to wider conflict over the Jewish State Law.  

The Jewish Home faction is composed of two different parties: the New National Religious Party (Mafdal Hahadasha) led by Bennett, which includes eight MKs, and the National Union led by Ariel, which has four MKs.

Bennett has proposed that in order to merge the two lists, all members will compete in the primaries, while Ariel has counter-proposed to add members of Tekuma to the list. Tekuma is the last remaining faction of the National Union party. 

Conflict allegedly erupted after Bennett responded by telling Ariel, "If you want a construction freeze [in Judea-Samaria], then go ahead and split the party."

Ariel responded by proposing that Jewish Home tie a protest against construction freezes into the next coalition agreement.

At this point, a witness stated, Bennett told Ariel, "because of you, there will not be a Defense Minister from Jewish Home, and the construction freeze will continue."

The meeting then broke up and was not resumed.

However, the date of Jewish Home primaries was eventually set later Monday; they will be held on January 5, Arutz Sheva has now learned. 

Jewish Home officials told Arutz Sheva after the faction meeting ended that "Uri Ariel wants an organized split, and the form of this threat is not acceptable to us." They added that Bennett would not acquiesce to threats and that "anyone who is willing to put himself forward in democratic elections by the public is invited to do so." 

Ariel's National Union responded that, "Bennett is afraid to discuss the character and values of the party," alleging that "he prefers to split the religious Zionist world and sell [out] its values and the settlers just to gather some more voices from Yair Lapid's [party, Yesh Atid - ed.]."

This is merely the latest in a string of conflicts within Jewish Home over Tekuma, which technically struck a unity deal with Bennett during the last Knesset elections.

Several weeks ago, a letter sent by Jewish Home director general Nir Orbach to Tekuma director general Ofir Soffer and seen by Arutz Sheva revealed a new deal with Tekuma.

The deal would consist of a full combination of the two parties in their legal, financial and political aspects, as well as a number two spot on the party's Knesset list reserved for the Tekuma chairman; it would essentially make Ariel the only MK other than party chairpersons not required to take part in campaigning; and it would ensure Tekuma 120 members on the party central committee, which will be expanded to a total of 1,300 members, as well as spots in Jewish Home institutions in the next term.

National Union members did not release an official response to the unity offer, which sparked controversy from both sides over the role of the party under the Jewish Home umbrella.