Naftali Bennett
Naftali Bennett Kobi Richter/TPS

MK and former Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (Likud) called on Education Minister Naftali Bennett (New Right) to join the Likud, as the Knesset prepares to vote Wednesday on a bill to dissolve itself and go to elections.

“If Naftali Bennett had been part of the Likud,” in last month’s election, Barkat told Radio 103FM Wednesday morning, all of those mandates wouldn’t have been lost and the situation now would be different.”

“The Likud’s secretariat decided yesterday to accept the Prime Minister’s recommendation to merge with Kulanu as a matter of national responsibility, with the understanding that the age of small parties is finished.”

“Naftali Bennett, too, needs to understand that the small parties cost the right-wing camp votes, hurting the nationalist camp. He should do like [Kulanu chief] Kahlon did and join together making one big party, in an expanded Likud. People who want to express themselves in politics take a big risk when they run separately.”

Bennett’s ‘New Right’ faction, which split off from the Jewish Home, came up just over 1,000 votes short of the 3.25% minimum threshold, leaving the party out of the 21st Knesset.

Had the party made it into the Knesset, the right-wing bloc would have had a net increase of two seats, with 67 mandates rather than 65. That, in turn, would have enabled Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to form a government without Avidgor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party, which has clashed with haredi lawmakers over a new draft bill altering the draft deferment program for yeshiva students.

With coalition talks at an impasse, the Likud has signaled that it will push to dissolve the Knesset if no breakthrough can be reached by the deadline for forming a new government Wednesday night.

A bill dissolving the 21st Knesset passed its preliminary vote earlier this week by a wide majority, with 66 MKs backing the bill and 44 against.

On Tuesday, the Kulanu party announced that it had agreed to run on a joint list with the Likud, after the Likud’s central committee approved the merger.

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