Bennett Defends Smotrich, But Won’t Join United Right List

Former Minister Naftali Bennett speaks with MK Betzalel Smotrich in the Knesset. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked of the New Right will not be joining the rest of the religious right in the upcoming September elections, the two said in a statement. The statement denied a report earlier on Reshet Bet that the two had come to an arrangement with the United Right List – representing Jewish Home and Otzma Yehudit – on a joint run. “This report is fake news,” the New Right said. “We would ask that the reporters stop commenting on this.”

The report on Reshet Bet was based on sources within United Right, who were quoted as saying that there had been “significant progress” on Bennett and Shaked essentially rejoining the party they had abandoned prior to the April election. On Sunday night, Bennett said that he would consider bringing New Right into a “technical bloc” with United Right for the election, in order not to lose any votes. After the election, the parties would presumably go their own ways.

With that, Bennett on Wednesday defended United Right head Betzalel Smotrich, after he was condemned Monday for saying he wanted to see a revival of Jewish law in the modern legal system. “The attacks on Smotrich were political and I do not intend to be a part of them,” Bennett said in a radio interview. His New Right party, he said, believed in the importance of Jewish law, but was against a halachic state, or a state where anyone would be coerced into any religious action or belief.

On Monday, Smotrich said that “the job of a justice minister in Israel will be to restore Jewish law as the law of the land. Jews who go to synagogue daily say the brachah of Hashivah Shofteinu (“restore our judges as in previous days”). The Jewish people are a unique people who must live under the laws of the Torah. Nothing is being done now, and nothing will be forced on anyone.” His job as justice minister, Smotrich said, would be to expose Israelis to Torah law and help them become familiar with its benefits.