Negotiations for a technical bloc joint list between Eli Yishai's Yachad - Ha'am Itanu and Dr. Michael Ben-Ari's Otzma Yehudit were collapsed on Tuesday night by surprising demands from Yishai's side ahead of a Thursday Knesset list submission deadline - but there may be a last hope.
Rabbi Meir Mazuz, Yishai's rabbinical counsel, met with Rabbi Tzvi Tau, the rabbi of MK Yoni Chetboun who joined Yishai, at Rabbi Tau's home in Jerusalem on Wednesday morning.
The two rabbis discussed the possibility of saving the talks with Otzma Yehudit.
Otzma Yehudit sources have stated that Chetboun "torpedoed" the talks, with Attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir saying that in contrast to positive talks with Yishai and Rabbi Mazuz, "Chetboun ruined all this with his irresponsibility."
In the talks Tuesday night, reportedly Yishai's party demanded at the last minute that Otzma Yehudit agree to sit in a coalition led by Binyamin Netanyahu "at any cost," so as to secure funding for Rabbi Tau's Yeshivat Har Hamor and other institutions.
Ben-Ari has made clear that he would not join any coalition unless firm ideological red lines were set, such as not releasing terrorists, not freezing construction, not holding negotiations with the Palestinian Authority (PA), and not letting Hamas survive another operation - all of which the outgoing coalition did.
Another condition demanded by Yishai's representatives was that Otzma Yehudit promise publicly to the media that they would never ascend to the Temple Mount - the holiest site in Judaism. Ben-Gvir noted this demand was excessive, particularly given that Chetboun was in Jewish Home with Uri Ariel, "who ascends to the Temple Mount every week."
The demand also raised anger given that Otzma Yehudit has called for Jewish prayer rights on the Mount, where the Jordanian Waqf enjoys de facto rule and has forbidden Jewish prayer, to be a key platform plank.
Furthermore, Rabbi Mazuz has ruled in support of visiting the Temple Mount, leading to conjecture that Rabbi Tau was behind the demand; the two rabbis likely discussed this point.
Otzma Yehudit said it had agreed to not ascend the Temple Mount during the joint campaign but was taken by surprise with the added demands. Likewise the party had agreed to Yishai's odd request to give the fourth spot to nationalist activist Baruch Marzel instead of Ben-Ari, who would have the sixth spot, before Ha'am Itanu later shifted its demands.
Running together, polls have shown the two parties would comfortably enter with seven seats, although separately polls indicate they both are liable not to pass the threshold that was raised by the outgoing government.