Otzma Yehudit: 'Yishai's Party Doesn't Want Us'

Ex-MK Ben-Ari's party list features popular Sephardic haredi radio host, as talk of ideological religious Zionist unity wavers.

Ido Ben-Porat, Ari Yashar,

Michael Ben-Ari
Michael Ben-Ari
Amir Levy/Flash 90

Otzma Yehudit, led by former MK Dr. Michael Ben-Ari, is starting to form its Knesset list behind its platform which, among other things, calls for the deportation of hostile Arab extremists from Israel.

One of the newly revealed candidates on the party's list is Shmuel Ben-Atar, a well-known radio show host attributed with causing a haredi radio revolution with his Kol Ha'emet station, and who is considered to be a popular figure in the Sephardic haredi community.

With the addition of Ben-Atar, Otzma Yehudit is poised to have an even stronger attraction for the Sephardic haredi public, which MK Eli Yishai's new Yachad - Ha'am Itanu also has been vying to appeal to.

Polls estimate both parties would have a difficult time making it past the threshold percentage the outgoing coalition raised, although if they ran on a technical bloc joint list that would allow them to separate later while keeping their seats, they would comfortably enter with at least four or five seats.

The two parties have discussed a joint list, but while Otzma Yehudit appears to be open to the idea, it argues that Ha'am Itanu has been opposed.

A source in Otzma Yehudit said "we aren't closing the door on Eli Yishai, and are continuing the preparations for a joint run. It seems that in the Yachad party there are too many sources who don't want us."

Explaining the decision to run despite the negative polls, the source added "we are obligated to the tens of thousands of voters who won't go vote if Ben-Ari doesn't run in the coming elections."

Signs that Ha'am Itanu is not open to running with Otzma Yehudit were shown on Thursday, when Jewish Home minister and Tekuma faction head Uri Ariel called for Yishai's party to run with Otzma Yehudit.

"Yishai must pass the threshold, because if not then three seats, four or five if we add...Otzma Yehudit, will go to waste and put the right in a difficult position," claimed Ariel.

Ha'am Itanu's MK Yoni Chetboun responded disparagingly, saying "if the personal future of Ben-Ari troubles the minister (Ariel), he is invited to reserve a spot for him on the Jewish Home list as is allowed by the new (party) constitution."

In fact Ben-Ari, when he was an MK with Ariel's National Union on a technical bloc arrangement, refused a place offered to him on Jewish Home when the two parties merged, saying a lack of clear ideological red lines prevented him from doing so.

Apparently a key stumbling bloc in terms of unity between the two parties is whether or not to join a Likud led coalition. Arutz Sheva has learned that Ben-Ari has said that in the meeting with Yishai's counsel Rabbi Meir Mazuz, the rabbi reportedly said the party is particularly eager to enter the coalition to secure funds for affiliated yeshivas.

For its part Otzma Yehudit is unlikely to join a coalition unless there are clear ideological red lines set, such as not releasing terrorists, not freezing construction in eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, not holding negotiations with the Palestinian Authority (PA), and not leaving Hamas to survive yet another operation - all of which were conducted by the outgoing coalition.