Uri Ariel
Uri Ariel Hadas Parush/Flash 90

Housing Minister Uri Ariel, head of the National Union party's Tekuma faction that ran on a joint list with Jewish Home in the last elections, spoke on Friday morning about the deep divides between his party and Economics Minister Naftali Bennett's Jewish Home.

Ariel spoke about the ongoing unification discussions he has been holding with Bennett during the "String Bridge" conference held by the Besheva newspaper in the Kinar Hotel on Lake Kinneret.

"The disagreement between us is on outlooks. On topics of religion and state, and on settling the land (of Israel)," said Ariel, indicating an ideological rift between the two parties.

However, he added "I'm struggling for unity between the parties, like Likud and Yisrael Beytenu did," saying the two parties would remain separate but with united lists.

Jewish Home has recently made the controversial move to more actively pursue secular and Druze votes, with National Union charging that Bennett wants to "sell out" the religious Zionist public's values and split that public "just to gather some more votes." Jewish Home has also come under fire from its own forum in Judea and Samaria, which expressed shock the party was sitting in the coalition as a building freeze rages.

Bennett's party has countered that its constitution calls for a religious Zionist character to be maintained, and charged Ariel with unfairness in demanding reserved spots on a joint list without running in January primaries.

Ariel responded to this point on Friday, saying "primary elections are the most corrupt thing I know of. They play with money that they shouldn't have. It's corrupt because the same politicians say why they're good and the others aren't as good or are even bad. With us, the Tekuma central committee decides and that's preferable."

The Tekuma head charged Bennett with avoiding unification with his party during the last nearly two years, saying "they didn't fulfill (their promises) because they thought we would disappear. I hope that this time it will be different."

Ariel also talked about Bennett's alliance with Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid party in joining the last coalition, saying "negotiations with the hareidim didn't succeed. They didn't give us promises and we had no choice - either to be in the coalition or to be out."

"At the same time, I'm in constant contact with the hareidim," said Ariel.

Indeed, Arutz Sheva reported on Wednesday that Ariel is in contact with Shas MK Eli Yishai and may form a new party with him.

Those meetings between Ariel and Yishai sparked outrage from Bennett, who cancelled a planned meeting with Ariel and issued a statement saying "we will not accept Uri Ariel’s shopping trips around the parties. The Jewish Home is currently under a momentum of activity while Minister Ariel is busy with shopping trips between Baruch Marzel, Eli Yishai and other parties. There are limits to political cynicism."

Jewish Home merely responded to the statements by its key partner on Friday by saying "we're busy with elections and not accusations."