Everybody involved in the Israeli political system, it seems, has something to say about the announcement Motzoei Shabbos by Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked that they were breaking with Jewish Home and forming a new party, to be called HaYemin Hehadash. In a statement, Jewish Home – which Bennett still technically heads – said that it would develop a new list that would run in the April 9 elections. “The party thanks Bennett and Shaked for five years of hard work on behalf of Israel. We believe that they will go on to great things. In the coming days Jewish Home will consider its next steps, but it is clear that we will present a quality list to voters for the 21st Knesset.”
Hadashot News, which broke the story Motzoei Shabbos, said that the main reason for the move was to enable Bennett and Shaked to operate more independently, and to escape the restrictions placed on it by the National Union, the partner party that joined with the National Religious Party to establish Jewish Home. Offir Sela, director-general of the National Union, criticized the new party, saying that “Bennett thinks that Religious Zionists are naïve children, but they are not fools. They understand that a political coup was pulled off here. Bennett thinks he will make a high-tech style ‘exit’ on the backs of Religious Zionism, but the public will prove him wrong when they vote for ideology, and not for a political stunt.”
The Likud, too, had harsh words for Bennett and Shaked. “There are those who did not learn the lessons of the elections of 1992,” when a split on the right enabled Yitzchak Rabin to form the government that signed the Oslo Accords. “The only way to ensure a true right-wing government is to vote for the Likud, with Netanyahu at its helm.”
The new party will remain a right-wing party that will unite Israelis of that point of view, regardless of their religious background, with half its list consisting of religious Israelis, and half secular Israelis. Jewish Home MK Shuli Muallem, who said Motzoei Shabbos that she was joining Bennett and Shaked, said that “the time has come to expand our ‘home.’ This party will work to expand settlement, increase the Jewish identity of Israel, and provide solutions to the social needs of Israelis.”
Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu was extremely negative, saying that the announcement of the new party “is the establishment of another sectorial party that will further minimize respect for government. In the current government Bennett and Shaked acted in a sectorial manner that sought ways to divide people. Israel needs a centrist party that will fight for all Israelis, whoever they are, and that will fight to remove the concept of ‘them’ from public discourse.”
Also critical was MK Tzipi Hotovely, who said that the move “creates fragments of a party that will be in danger of missing the electoral threshold. I call on right-wing voters to show responsibility and vote for the Likud. You don’t make ‘exits’ in politics. The right-wing voters will understand that they should vote for the Likud, not for an imitation.” Likud MK Yehuda Glick said “it’s 1992 all over again. Bennet and Shaked are again reviving Tehiya,” a right-wing party that ran in that election with a mixed religious-secular list. “Unfortunately we know how that story ended.”
Also negative on the move was Meretz head Tamar Zandberg, who said that “the New Right is racist, inciteful and dangerous. This is a partnership between someone who tried to kill the justice system, and someone who tried to kill secularism” in the educational system.