Bayit Yehudi party leader Naftali Bennett used his authority to appoint retired soccer star Eli Ochana to the 11th slot on the party lineup. The selection has backfired as there is a growingly audible sentiment among religious and non-religious party supporters opposed to the party leader’s selection.
As the criticism mounts, Bennett on Tuesday evening 7 Shevat called a faction meeting of the party’s MKs in the hope of mustering support for his move. Bennett is trying to avoid drastic decision, such as MK Zevulun Kalfa announcing he is quitting the party and dropping off the list because in his view, Bennett has lost sight of what Bayit Yehudi is about.
According to a Galei Tzahal (Army Radio) report, the meeting was not successful as tensions ran high amid efforts by Bennett to drum up party unity around his decision. Avi Wortzman called on Bennett to place Ochana in the 17th slot, and not the 11th. Shuli Muallem accused Bennett of disappointing those loyal to him.
Surprising her colleagues was MK Ayelet Shaked, who is not religious. She explained to her colleagues that they are upset at Bennett for betraying the religious voters, adding she and her non-religious voters are no less upset with his selection.
Rabbi Eli Sadan, Rosh Yeshivat Bnei David, a rabbi viewed as the “father of the IDF mechinot yeshivas” announced with the appointment of Ochana, Bayit Yehudi has become a “Likud 2” and he cannot endorse such a party. Following the meeting Bennett and Shaked were planning to visit with Rabbi Sadan to persuade him to change his mind.
The dati leumi Kippa website ran an online poll for visitors to the site, asking if they back the appointment of Ochayon to the 11th slot. 55.5% responded they will vote for Bayit Yehudi with Ochana in the 11th slot while 73.4% stated they would vote for the party only if Ochana is not in the lineup.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)