After circuitous negotiations about a technical bloc unity list between Eli Yishai's Yachad - Ha'am Itanu and Dr. Michael Ben-Ari's Otzma Yehudit, and after Yishai's MK Yoni Chetboun threatened on Thursday to leave the party, it appears a joint list has been assembled at the last minute.
Chetboun threatened to quit over the inclusion of Otzma Yehudit on the list; the two parties are predicted to not make it in separately, but running jointly would get seven seats. Apparently Chetboun was cajoled back after being offered four spots for nationalist religious candidates in the top ten of the list, not including nationalist activist Baruch Marzel from Otzma Yehudit who was placed fourth.
Yishai's party demanded that the fourth spot, the last of the minimum guaranteed spots if the party makes it past the threshold, be for Marzel and that Ben-Ari be placed sixth, leading to anticipations that the list would be finalized on Wednesday - but then Yishai's party changed the demands again and required Ben-Ari to agree not to be on the list at all, despite his being chairperson of Otzma Yehudit.
Knesset lists must be submitted by 10 p.m. on Thursday; currently the first seven spots in the joint list are as follows:
1. Eli Yishai
2. Yoni Chetboun
3. Michael Ayash
4. Baruch Marzel
5. Sason Treblesi
6. Aharon Tzohar
7. Dudi Shwamenfeld
Another condition placed on Otzma Yehudit was that its members announce to the media that they would never ascend to the Temple Mount - the holiest site in Judaism - despite Yishai's rabbinical counsel Rabbi Meir Mazuz having ruled in favor of visiting the site.
Rabbi Tzvi Tau of Yeshivat Har Hamor, who is Chetboun's counsel, agreed to back the list after requiring Marzel to promise not to ascend the Mount during the upcoming Knesset term. Later on this demand was removed, but likewise Rabbi Tau removed his support for the party over Otzma Yehudit's inclusion.
Earlier on Thursday Rabbi Moshe Hager, who was evidently promised the fourth sport on the Ha'am Itanu list, announced to his students at the pre-military school in Yatir that he would return to teaching.
"I'm not quitting the party and I will serve as chairperson of the movement's management," clarified Rabbi Hager. "I came from a feeling of having a mission and faith in the path, but for the unity I give up on my spot."
Ben-Ari explained on Wednesday why he was willing to give up on his spot on the list to as to ensure that Marzel would have a good chance of making it in the Knesset, and so that Otzma Yehudit would have representation.
"Putting Marzel in my place comes due to a demand of Rabbi Mazuz's house. We didn't see it as a reason to delay entry to the Knesset, because of a personal issue," he said.
"Baruch Marzel's presence is a great victory over haters of Israel," Ben-Ari added. "Baruch is a faithful student of Rabbi (Meir) Kahane, and was his aide in the Knesset. His return to the Knesset as an MK is a great victory. I'll be happy when Baruch stands before the enemies."