Concerns were mounting Tuesday over a possible split in the National Union, as sources in the party said that tensions were emerging between its two heads – Rafi Peretz of Bayit Yehudi, and Betzalel Smotrich of National Union. Sources in the party told Channel 12 that the rift was due to Smotrich’s insistence on the party being awarded both the Education and Justice portfolios, with Peretz preferring to compromise.
Negotiations between the National Union and the Likud about the former’s inclusion in the government have not yet begun, but on Monday night Smotrich said that he would not compromise on the Justice portfolio, seen by many in the Likud as an excessive demand for a party with just five MKs. The sources told Channel 12 that Smotrich had made his demands known without consulting with Peretz in advance. The sources added that there was a possibility that National Union and Jewish Home would conduct negotiations with the Likud independently.
Speaking to Channel 20 on Tuesday, Smotrich said that he was unaware of any “tension from any sources who are apparently seeking to cave into the wishes of Prime Minister Netanyahu, and prefer to see the Religious Zionist party returned to the days of the Mafdal, a mere small and irrelevant satellite party. Our power is in our unity, and as a party we hold the key to the government, because without us there is no coalition.”
Regarding the possibility of splitting, Smotrich said that those who were advocating such a move “are acting irresponsibly and if it happens the public will not forgive us. I have been speaking with Rabbi Peretz, including last night, and I am convinced that he is not thinking of this. I would not be surprised if these messages are not being spread by the Likud as disinformation in order to weaken us. We have no intention on compromising on getting the Justice and Education portfolios,” he added.