Election Drama: Last-Minute ‘Backstabbing’ Among Right-Wing Parties that Could Put Netanyahu in Danger

January 16, 2020

2 min read

The backstory

In Israel, a political party needs at least 3.25% of the country’s votes just to serve in the parliament. Those who can’t get those four minimum seats will find themselves unemployed following election day. If every right-wing party passes that minimum threshold, be it by running on a joint ticket or alone, it’s safe to say that Israel’s current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, would be able to comfortably form a coalition government with other parties who more or less agree to his right-leaning ideals. That’s how he can finally win the upcoming election.

Possible Results of Division

There are four major parties to the right of Netanyahu, each with their own strong constituency – Jewish Home, New Right, National Union, and Otzmah Yehudit. If each one runs alone, it’s safe to say that none of them will pass the minimum threshold. And if that happens, millions of right-wing votes will have been wasted paving the path for a left-wing government headed by Gantz who will likely look to include the Joint Arab List as the third-largest party.

That’s why most right-wingers in Israel wanted all four parties to unite into one united front. This would ensure that no right-wing votes would get wasted. But petty politics got in the way and the result was two parties instead of one – although not ideal, is still better than four.

The most right-wing party, headed by Otzmah Yehudit, actively sought to unite all four parties only to fall on deaf ears. But Bennett objected to the unification because Ben-Gvir has a picture of ‘Jewish terrorist’ Baruch Goldstein hanging in his living room saying that he cannot unite with someone who has the image of a “mass-murderer” on his wall. Ben-Gvir then called Bennett’s bluff and said he was ready to remove the image of Goldstein for the sake of national unity. Bennett didn’t respond to the offer.

The Betrayal

So ‘New Right’ Head Naftali Bennett joined with ‘National Union’ head Betzalel Smotrich while ‘Jewish Home’ head Rabbi Rafi Peretz joined with ‘Otzmah Yehudit’ head Itamar Ben-Gvir. But in the 11th hour, just minutes before the deadline for all parties to register, Rabbi Peretz abandoned Ben Gvir and joined with Bennett and Smotrich leaving Ben-Gvir to fend for himself.

Ben-Gvir responded by calling Peretz a backstabber saying: “He who is called the Minister of Education stuck a knife in my back and in the back of 84,000 people who supported me. It was not only him but all the politicians in religious Zionism – [Bezalel] Smotrich, [Naftali] Bennett and [Ayelet] Shaked – all of them played a part.”

This leaves Israel’s right-wing voters in a dilemma regarding who to vote for – the backstabbers and those against unity but will definitely get into the Knesset? Or the only party who pushed for unity and was shunned for petty political reasons? Another option is that they’ll just vote for Netanyahu’s party. But one thing’s for sure – a lot of confusion will infect the right-wing camp this time around.




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