Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s comments on the disarray of the right wing in the wake of the split in the Jewish Home party reverberated at home on Monday night.
During a press conference in Rio de Janeiro earlier in the day, Netanyahu said the right is in danger of splintering into tiny parties that won’t pass the 3.25 percent electoral threshold, thereby allowing the center-left parties to win the election.
“I am going to check and do what I can to prevent this,” and in a swipe at the heads of the new Hayamin Hachadash party, Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, he promised: “I will act responsibly so that the right-wing bloc retains its strength and I will not act irresponsibly and take actions that endangers the Right.”
Polls published on Sunday showed that the new party would win from 6 to 10 seats, and according to one poll, would leave their former party, Jewish Home, with insufficient support to make the electoral threshold.
In a stinging remark, Netanyahu also accused Bennett and Shaked of shifting to the left: “I’m surprised that the first thing they did was to attack me, and I ask myself: Why?”
“They could easily move seats from the right to the left. They were already in a ‘brotherhood’ with the Left, with [Yesh Atid leader] Yair Lapid,” he said, referring to a period in 2013 when they worked together as a bloc in that Likud-led coalition.
In response, a spokesperson for the New Right said they won’t be dragged into fight with Netanyahu that will damage all on the right, and called on him to join them in bringing centrist voters to the Right.
Addressing the entrance into the campaign of candidates with dubious right-wing credentials, Bennett and Shaked issued a joint statement urging voters not to be fooled:
“Instead of going to fake right-wing parties and getting the left in camouflage, come and join us, a true right that will unwaveringly for the interests of the people of Israel and the State of Israel. It began in the polls yesterday and will continue until Election Day. Those on the right who went to [centrist parties led by] Gantz, Lapid and Orly Levy – are returning home.”
Back in the Jewish Home party, the battle for leadership was on.
Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan, MKs Motti Yogev and Bezalel Smotrich are reportedly vying for the chairmanship vacated by Bennett.
Meanwhile, Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman rejected the possibility of a new right-wing coalition suggested by Netanyahu.
“We have no intention whatsoever of uniting with any party. We will work independently and are confident that at the end of the election campaign we will bring a double digit number of mandates,” the right-wing party said in a statement.
All the current polls give it less than 10 mandates.