The political parties are in the final stages of preparing their lists in time for submitting them to the Central Election Committee by the deadline, this Thursday night, 22 February at 10:00PM. As such, talks continue in the right-wing camp, primarily surrounding a deal between Bayit Yehudi and the Otzma Yehudit party.
According to reports, a deal has been reached by which the 8th and 15th positions will be given to the Otzma Yehudit candidate on the combined Bayit Yehudi/Ichud Leumi/Otzma Yehudit list. Clearly, they will split after getting into Knesset, as Bayit Yehudi is likely to enter a coalition headed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu while Otzma Yehudit is more likely to opt for joining the opposition.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who was scheduled to depart for Russia, delayed his departure to enter into the talks directly, continuing to pressure Rabbi Rafi Peretz to have his Bayit Yehudi party reach agreement to bring Otzma Yehudit onboard, as Mr. Netanyahu is clearly concerned about right-wing votes being tossed in the trash as occurred in the last election. He understands these critical votes could be sufficient in number to open the door of opportunity for Benny Gantz and his Israel Resilience Party to enter and take the lead, permitting him to attempt to establish a left-wing coalition government.
HaRav Chaim Druckman is reportedly in favor of the agreement with Otzma Yehudit at present, having dropped his opposition to teaming with the party that is perceived to be “far right” according to many. Alternatively, Rosh Yeshivat Bnei David, Rabbi Eli Sadan, a prominent voice in the dati leumi community, is working to prevent the agreement from being signed, dati leumi websites report, as Rav Sadan is adamantly opposed to have Bayit Yehudi identified with Michael Ben-Ari, Baruch Marzel, Itamar Ben-Givir and Bentzion Gupstein.
Yifat Erlich, number six on the lineup and member of Bayit Yehudi, remains an outspoken opponent of a deal with Otzma Yehudit, insisting it will harm and not benefit the party on Election Day, insisting the members of the party are not in favor of such a unity agreement, even if they part ways the day after elections.
The result of the reported agreement is the slot that remains for Eli Yishai of the Yachad party is the ninth, and according to all polls, an ‘unrealistic’ slot, meaning to say the party is not likely to receive nine seats, so Yishai will not make it into the 21st Knesset, unless he decides to run alone, which all the polls show will result in wasted votes. However, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who is still working to unite all the right-wing parties to avoid wasting votes, has reportedly promised Yishai to appoint him to a cabinet post in the next government. A cabinet minister does not have to be a Knesset member.
Yishai on Tuesday night met with HaGaon HaRav Meir Mazuz Shlita, Rosh Yeshivat Kisei Rachamim for a number of hours, explaining to him that Mr. Netanyahu is pressuring him to accept the ninth slot on the Bayit Yehudi lineup, with the understanding he will serve as a cabinet minister in the government.
Yishai however rejected the offer, based on the likelihood that on the day after elections, Shas Chairman Aryeh Deri will give PM Netanyahu an ultimatum, “either Shas or Yishai”, which will throw a wrench into the promised ministerial post. Rav Mazuz has been briefed and he understands that Yishai running alone, without Otzma Yehudit as was the case in the last election, does not present a realistic opportunity of entering the 21st Knesset.
The only opportunity remaining for Rav Mazuz is to have a representative enter the Shas lineup, which the party signaled it is willing to do, for as long as it is not Eli Yishai. At present, Rav Mazuz is quoted saying that Yishai is his representative, and no one will replace him.
It is likely that Yishai will retire from politics as he party has no partner and he cannot make it into Knesset on his own.
Following the reported agreement between Bayit Yehudi & Otzma Yehudit, the lineup is as follows:
1. Rabbi Rafi Peretz (Bayit Yehudi)
2. Betzalel Smotrich (Ichud Leumi)
3. Moti Yogev (Ichud Leumi)
4. Ofer Sofer (Ichud Leumi)
5. Dr. Michael Ben-Ari (Otzma Yehudit)
6. Yifat Erlich (Bayit Yehudi)
7. Orit Struk (Ichud Leumi)
8. Otzma Yehudit person
9. Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan
10. Yossi Cohen
Members of Bayit Yehudi will meet on Wednesday evening to either ratify or reject the agreement with Otzma Yehudit.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)