Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett’s use of his prerogative to designate candidates for the Knesset list to choose a former soccer star has riled party members, The Jerusalem Post reported on Tuesday.
Bennett had made known his intentions to broaden the party’s appeal in the March 17 elections, but the ideological background of Eli Ohana, who supported the 2005 Gaza disengagement, anathema to Jewish Home’s right-wing constituency, drew pained reactions.
“I don’t know how to spin this [positively]. The base is very angry,” a major party operative said.
Bennett’s decision was presumably influenced by Ohana’s popularity as a sports figure, as well as his ethnic background — his parents immigrated to Israel from Morocco.
“I know we get Sephardic traditional Likud voters out of this,” the Jewish Home official acknowledged, “but Sephardic [Jewish Home members] are the angriest. He doesn’t represent us one bit.”
In a radio interview, Bennett defended his choice, saying he is using his authority “to fix and balance the primary’s results.”
“There is criticism in our home, but as a leader, I have to take steps that aren’t always popular,” Bennett told Israel Radio. “Our party doesn’t just belong to the religious, it’s for all Jewish people.”
As for Ohana’s former support for the disengagement, Bennett said: “He made a mistake and he said he understood he was wrong. Why shouldn’t I open our door to him?”