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Israel right-wing unites for election, ultra-nationalist factions announce merger

Israel's Minister of Education Naftali Bennett (R) and Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (L) announce the formation of new political party HaYemin HeHadash or The New Right, during a press conference in the Israeli Mediterranean coastal city of Tel Aviv on 29 December 2018. [JACK GUEZ / AFP / Getty]
Israel's Minister of Education Naftali Bennett (R) and Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (L) announce the formation of new political party HaYemin HeHadash or The New Right, during a press conference in the Israeli Mediterranean coastal city of Tel Aviv on 29 December 2018. [JACK GUEZ / AFP / Getty]

The New Right (Hayemin Hehadash) party and the Union of Right Wing Parties (URWP) have announced the formation of a technical bloc to contest Israel’s September election, while the ultra-nationalist Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Home) party will merge with a newly-formed extremist party, Noam.

Former Justice Minister and New Right party head, Ayelet Shaked, was yesterday announced as the leader of the as-yet-unnamed bloc, replacing current head of the URWP Rafi Peretz. Peretz will now take second place on the new bloc’s slate, followed by Transport Minister Bezalel Smotrich and former Education Minister Naftali Bennett in fourth place.

The remaining positions will be declared this week, with the deadline for announcing party slates set for Thursday.

Shaked has pushed for an alliance of all factions to the right of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party since the New Right failed to pass the minimum 3.25 per cent voting threshold in April. Polls show that the new bloc could gain as many as 12 seats, significantly more than the five URWP currently holds.

Peretz yesterday announced the new arrangement on Twitter, saying that “unity is a common goal of all of us” and adding that the two parties would meet to discuss the finer details before Thursday.

Bennett has, however, stressed that the arrangement between New Right and URWP is a technical bloc and not a fully-fledged alliance, meaning the parties will maintain their independence after the election. Despite Bennett’s wish to include Zehut – a right-wing libertarian party which failed to cross the threshold in April – in this technical bloc, its leader Moshe Feiglin yesterday ruled out a merger and vowed to run alone on 17 September.

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One right-wing party missing from the new bloc is Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power), the ultra-right-wing party which takes its ideology from the outlawed Kach party and its leader, Rabbi Meir Kahane.

Otzma was plucked from obscurity ahead of the April election when Netanyahu orchestrated a deal to merge the party with Jewish Home and National Union, thus creating URWP. However, after Otzma head Michael Ben Ari was banned from participation and party number two, Itamar Ben Gvir, placed too low on the slate to win a Knesset seat, none of the party’s members entered the parliament.

Earlier this month Otzma Yehudit announced that it would break away from URWP, after Peretz and Smotrich refused to give up their Knesset seats to allow Ben Gvir to sit in the parliament, as they had previously promised. Despite then vowing to run alone, the party this weekend announced that it will contest September’s election with a newly-formed extreme right-wing party, Noam.

Michael Ben Ari, the leader of the Jewish Power party on 23 December 2010 [GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images]

Michael Ben Ari, the leader of the Jewish Power party on 23 December 2010 [GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images]

The nascent Noam party was formed earlier this month to appeal to “Hardal” Israelis, meaning both religious-Zionists whose lifestyle is similar to Haredim (ultra-Orthodox Jews) and Haredim who, unlike the majority of their community, subscribe to Zionism.

In its announcement yesterday, Noam vowed to “bring victory to the right, prevent the establishment of a leftist government, and give [a political] home to hundreds of thousands of people who are loyal to the integrity of the Torah, the integrity of the people and the integrity of the land”.

Like New Right-URWP, the Otzma-Noam agreement will be a technical bloc, though will not come into effect for another 24 hours, seemingly to leave the door open to joining Shaked’s right-wing slate. Otzma has demanded that Ben Gvir be given a realistic slot on the slate to guarantee his entry into the Knesset, though URWP appears reluctant to concede to this demand.

For its part, Noam has refused to serve under Shaked and Bennett, who the party claims “don’t represent religious Zionism”, a thinly-veiled criticism of Shaked’s secularism which has previously proved controversial among the religious right-wing.

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