Smotrich: Decision to run separately from Yamina is final

Religious Zionism chief Bezalel Smotrich denies report that he received offer from Netanyahu to run jointly with Otzma Yehudit.

Arutz Sheva Staff , | updated: 1:35 PM

Smotrich with Netanyahu
Smotrich with Netanyahu
צילום: דוברות

MK Bezalel Smotrich denied Monday claims that he is negotiating behind the scenes with the Yamina party for a joint run, saying that his decision to rebrand the National Union as the Religious Zionist Party and run separately from Yamina is final.

Speaking with Reshet Bet Monday morning, Smotrich said that the new Religious Zionist Party would remain apart from Yamina, while seeking possible alliances with other rightist factions, alluding to Otzma Yehudit.

“We have raised our flag; we are running as a national-religious party with a large national-religious public, synagogues, youth groups – this isn’t a stock on the stock exchange.”

Smotrich said the new party would focus on areas of interest to the Religious Zionist sector, including judicial reform.

“Without fixing the judicial system, we can’t defend our values, we can’t advance the settlement enterprise, and we can’t fight terrorism.”

“I’m absolutely not in negotiations with Naftali Bennett. We are running separately because of differences in values and politics.”

Responding to reports that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s confidants had offered him a deal to encourage him to run jointly with Otzma Yehudit, Smotrich said that no offers had been made, but did acknowledge that he is interested in forming electoral alliances.

“We have two weeks left until the deadline for submitting candidate lists, and we are working to put together a diverse list. But I’m not planning on holding negotiations through the media. Anyone who wants to join forces can be a part. I’m not talking about any party or person in particular. I don’t want to repeat the same mistake we made three times already. The public deserves to have a good list put together in a clean, nice process.”

Smotrich called Sunday’s report that Netanyahu had offered to give him extra representation in the government if he runs with Otzma Yehudit “nonsense”, adding that he “hasn’t spoken with Netanyahu or his people since I joined the Opposition.”

On Sunday, it was reported that officials close to Netanyahu have been trying to broker a deal between Smotrich and Otzma chief Itamar Ben-Gvir for a joint run.

According to the report, officials close to Netanyahu spoke with Ben-Gvir over the weekend, and managed to secure his agreement to the idea of uniting Otzma Yehudit with the National Union.

According to a report by Channel 12, Netanyahu promised Smotrich and Ben-Gvir that if the two parties run together and enter a Netanyahu-led government, they will be given double representation in the coalition. Thus, if the joint list were to win five seats, they would get the number of appointments that would normally go to a party of ten seats.

Last week, it was reported that Ben-Gvir refused to attend a meeting with Smotrich brokered by Netanyahu confidants.

While Ben-Gvir had agreed in principle to attend the meeting, he conditioned his participation on receiving an explicit promise that the meeting would not be used to pressure Bennett. Netanyahu’s confidants refused to make such a promise, and the meeting was cancelled.