Shaked Takes Over New Right Party; Bennett Drops to No. 2

naftali bennett, ayelet shaked, israel new right
MK Naftali Bennett (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ending weeks of speculation, former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked announced on Sunday evening that she will head the New Right party in the September 17 election, as her co-founder, former education minister Bennett, agreed to step down to the No. 2 spot.

Shaked, who had been the subject of countless reports about negotiations for the possiblity of her taking over the leadership of the United Right, said on Sunday that all the right-wing parties should join together in the campaign.

“The differences among us are insignificant,” she said. “A merger is the insurance certificate of the values of the ideological Right.”

Bennett was left to lead New Right on his own after Shaked temporarily quit politics following the disappointing outcome in April, when the new party failed to make the electoral threshhold.

On Sunday, he said: “My place in the party isn’t so important, I could be first, second or even third.”

“I believe that she will lead us to a great victory.”

“Ayelet Shaked will lead the New Right – and the entire United Right,” he added.

The prospects of a grand coalition on the right were clouded, however, by reports during the day that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been working behind the scenes to prevent it. The PM denied any intervention on his part—unless, he said, it was needed.

Polls released on Sunday night predicted significant gains for the right wing if New Right and United Right get run on a ticket headed by Shaked.

Kan broadcaster and Channel 12 both announced findings that showed such an alliance would get 12-13 seats, as opposed to 5 and 6, respectively.

However, the two additional seats in the Knesset would not help the right-wing cause, as the polls said they would come at the expense of Netanyahu’s Likud, which would drop below Blue and White into second place.

Overall, it would have no effect on Avigdor Liberman’s position as the necessary swing vote to form a ruling majority, leaving the parties in the same situation they were in after the April elections, when neither Netanyahu nor Gantz-Lapid could form a coalition. Unless, that is, some method could be found to work around Liberman, such as a Blue and White coalition with the chareidi parties if Lapid would leave the party, a possibility under discussion.

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