Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein on Tuesday appealed to parties on the right to unite – either among themselves or with the Likud – in order to prevent a “national catastrophe” if the left seizes power after the April elections. Speaking at a political conference in Yerushalayim, Edelstein said that politicians “must show responsibility and find ways to work together. Without parties partnering with each other, the right will be destroyed and we will awaken to a nightmare of the left ruling.”
Among the issues Edelstein was referring to was the reported blowup in negotiations over the weekend between Jewish Home and National Union, with the former’s head Rafi Peretz and the latter’s Betzalel Smotrich each blaming the ego issues of the other for a failure to arrive at a deal. According to polls, both parties working together, with the addition of Otzma Yehudit and Yachad (headed by Eli Yishai) could get ten or more Knesset seats – but alone, all of them are hovering at or below the electoral threshold, meaning that none of the right-wing parties would get Knesset representation – with their votes essentially wasted.
Speaking on Army Radio Tuesday, Smotrich said that despite the reports of a blowup, he was confident a deal would be worked out. “I recommend that people not take too seriously these negotiation issues. This is what negotiations are all about. I am announcing here categorically – there will be a joint list with National Union, Jewish Home, and Otzma Yehudit.”
He also denied weekend reports that claimed that the feud between Peretz and him was about who would lead the list. “I had already in the first meeting conceded the number one slot to Peretz. I have no desire to lead the list. My main responsibility is to the right, to religious Zionism, and to the future right-wing government. The issue of a joint list is much more important than who will get what job.”
In his remarks, Edelstein said that without a right-wing government, the work that the Likud had done would be reversed quickly. “We have turned the wheel substantially to the right. The Palestinian state is no longer an agenda item, but Israeli sovereignty in Yehudah and Shomron is. It took us 20 years to eschew the idea of a Palestinian state – if the left gets in it will take them 20 seconds to put it back on the agenda. We have a responsibility to ensure that the right remains in control. A large right-wing bloc led by the Likud, together with a contingent of religious Zionist MKs, is the solution.”