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Netanyahu urges smaller right-wing factions to unite

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on October 4, 2018 [Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images]
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on 4 October 2018 [Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “has been reaching out to leaders of the smaller right-wing parties, urging them to unite in order to avoid a scenario where one or two factions do not receive enough votes in April to cross the electoral threshold”, reported the Times of Israel.

According to Israel’s Channel 12, the Likud leader asked National Union chair Bezalel Smotrich “to merge with the far-right Otzma Yehudit party”, in addition to “calling on Shas Chairman Aryeh Deri to form a united ultra-Orthodox bloc with the United Torah Judaism Party”.

In a statement, Netanyahu acknowledged that he is trying to get several fringe parties to merge in the hope that they would be able to pass the Knesset’s threshold.

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“Netanyahu is calling on Jewish Home to work toward uniting with National Union and Otzma [Yehudit], so that the right-wing bloc will not lose seats, which could result in the formation of a leftist government,” he said in a statement.

Both Jewish Home and Shas “have been straddling the electoral threshold of 3.25 per cent of the vote in recent weeks”, reported the Times of Israel, “leading Netanyahu to worry over the possibility of wasted right wing votes”. Votes for parties that fail to pass the threshold are effectively lost.

Party lists must be finalised by 21 February.

According to Channel 12, Netanyahu has previously “bolstered his position by siphoning off votes from right-wing parties, but with the electoral threshold relatively high, has been forced to focus his campaigning elsewhere out of fear that they will be left out of the Knesset altogether.”

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