Netanyahu brokers deal for Smotrich and Ben Gvir to join forces in election

Religious Zionism and Otzma Yehudit announced on Friday that they had agreed to run together in the upcoming Knesset elections, after opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu convened a meeting with leaders of far-right parties to negotiate a merger agreement.

The two factions ran on a joint slate in last year’s elections but have split in recent weeks over the composition of the slate, with Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben Gvir seeking greater representation amid Recent polls have shown him gaining popularity while Bezalel Smotrich’s religious Zionism has received mixed results. .

A joint statement from Otzma Yehudit and Religious Zionism said they had agreed on a “joint run for the 25th Knesset”. He also said the deal would help lead to a “victory” for the right-wing religious bloc led by Netanyahu.

“We will continue to act for additional liaisons,” Smotrich tweeted. “Together we will succeed.”

Ben Gvir praised the “equal slate”, saying “we will have at least five Ben Gvir in the Knesset”.

Netanyahu, who hosted the pair at his home in Caesarea on Friday afternoon, also welcomed the deal.

“Unity is currently needed to ensure the victory of the national side and the formation of a stable national government for the next four years,” he said.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu urges the far-right Religious Zionism and Otzma Yehudit parties to come together for the upcoming Knesset elections, in a video posted August 23, 2022. (Screen capture: Facebook)

As part of the deal, Otzma Yehudit is expected to get realistic second, fifth, seventh, ninth and 10th spots on the joint slate. The anti-LGBT Noam party will be offered 11th place, according to Hebrew media. Noam MK Avi Maoz entered the Knesset last year after securing a place in a joint race with the other two parties.

The list will be led by Smotrich, with the rest of the top five comprising Ben Gvir, Religious Zionism MPs Ofir Sofer and Orit Strock, and Otzma Yehudit chief executive Yitzhak Wasserlauf. Two other Religious Zionism MKs – Simcha Rothman and Michal Waldiger – are expected to take sixth and eighth place respectively, while Otzma Yehudit’s Almog Cohen and Amichai Eliyahu will be seventh and ninth. Tenth place will go to a member of Ben Gvir’s party who has yet to be named.

A Channel 12 report called the deal the “Caesarea Accord.”

Netanyahu had urged far-right parties to come together again, warning that only running together is both guaranteed to enter the Knesset and avoid wasted votes. Both factions are expected to back his bid to win back the premiership, with the Likud leader likely needing all the support he can get to achieve a 120-seat Knesset majority.

Polls released Wednesday showed Otzma Yehudit is emerging as one of the country’s biggest parties, even as the hardline stalwart resisted pressure to remerge Knesset slates with religious Zionism.

Polls on Israel’s three major networks gave Otzma Yehudit between eight and nine seats. Elections were held today, a stunning result for Ben Gvir, whose radical ideology was until recently seen as well outside the mainstream of Israeli politics.

In a potential blow to Netanyahu’s chances of regaining power, a survey showed religious Zionism fell below the threshold unless it merged with Ben Gvir, while another barely broke through.

Far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir speaks during a press conference in Ramat Gan ahead of the upcoming Knesset elections, August 15, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Overall, the polls indicated that neither perceived side would have enough support to break the political stalemate that sent Israelis to the polls five times in less than four years in the Nov. 1 election.

Israeli TV polls are often too small to accurately predict election results, with margins of error large enough to sway up to five seats, but they can offer broad insights into public opinion and often sway jockeys. between politicians.

Smotrich and Ben Gvir ran on a split ticket in the 2021 election, winning six seats, and their parties were part of the Netanyahu-brokered Union of Right-Wing Parties, which ran in the April 2019 vote But negotiations to resubmit a common voters list in November’s elections collapsed earlier this month, with Ben Gvir accusing Smotrich of negotiating in “bad faith” and refusing to make any concessions.

Aware of the potentially damaging outcome of their separate candidacy, Netanyahu on Tuesday publicly urged both sides not to “take the risk.”

In a video message posted to social media, Netanyahu pleaded with Smotrich and Ben Gvir to resurrect their alliance — echoing his previous efforts.

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