National Union chief to quit party if he loses leadership race

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel won't run for Knesset with Jewish Home party if he loses leadership race in National Union faction.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Housing Minister Uri Ariel
Housing Minister Uri Ariel
Flash 90

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel will not run for the Knesset with the National Union party – a faction of the Jewish Home list – in next year’s election if he is defeated in the party’s primary later this month.

Last week, MK Bezalel Smotrich, who together with Ariel represents the National Union party in the Knesset as part of a joint list with the Jewish Home, announced his candidacy in the National Union’s leadership election, slated to be held in two weeks.

Smotrich said the National Union needs to serve as the political home of the national-religious sector, replacing the larger Jewish Home faction, which he claimed no longer catered the national-religious public.

The National Union “needs to step up ahead of [the next election] and situate itself as the political home of religious Zionism, and everyone who identifies with its ideas and values.”

“The challenge of representing the religious Zionist public… is not part” of the Jewish Home’s larger aspirations, Smotrich continued. “That is our job.”

If Smotrich succeeds in his bid for control of the party, it appears that Ariel will not run again on the National Union ticket.

According to Ariel’s registration papers for the party primaries, he is only registered to compete in the leadership race, but did not enter a separate bid for the party’s Knesset list. That decision effectively prevents him from running on the National Union ticket next year if he loses to Smotrich.

The National Union, which Ariel has headed since 2013, is an amalgamation of several small right-wing and national-religious parties, including Tekuma and Moledet.

The party won four seats out of 12 total won by the Jewish Home list in 2013, but declined to just two mandates in 2015, when the Jewish Home won eight seats.

Ariel has served in the Knesset since 2001, and is a member of the National Union’s Tekuma faction, which split off from the Jewish Home’s forerunner, the National Religious Party.