Zehut Party head Moshe Feiglin and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will issue a joint statement later Thursday afternoon, in which the former is expected to announced that he is bowing out of the Knesset elections. The declaration comes a day after the two met to discuss the possibility of Feiglin’s quitting, in order to ensure that votes that would have gone to his party will not be “wasted” in the likely event that Zehut did not pass the electoral threshold.
To achieve Knesset representation, a party needs 3.25% of the total number of votes cast in elections, a total of about 140,000 votes. Polls in recent weeks show Zehut running at about half that amount, which means that if those who said they would vote for him did so and the party did not achieve Knesset representation, two seats that would likely have joined a Netanyahu-led coalition would not be available. Netanyahu in recent days is said to have initiated the contacts with Feiglin, imploring him to drop out of the elections over those concerns.
In a statement, Feiglin said that during the discussions Netanyahu had proposed several ideas to carry out policies that Zehut has proposed, chief among them the legalization of cannabis for medical use. “At our meeting I explained in depth to the Prime Minister why this was needed, and how sick people were dying because cannabis was unavailable to them. I gave him the example of Sivan Maimoni, z”l,” a young girl who died of cancer this week after treatments with medical cannabis were halted.
Netanyahu, Feiglin wrote, “went into the depths of the issue, and after hours of examining the issue and discussing it with professionals in the medical establishment, developed a plan with me on the matter. Sick people will be able to purchase cannabis by doctor’s prescription. This is truly a life-saving matter,” and along with that, Netanyahu committed to further liberalization of the economy, another important aspect of Zehut’s platform.
Reports Wednesday night also said that Netanyahu had promised Feiglin a senior ministerial portfolio connected to the economy. The reports added that Netanyahu had been especially gracious to Feiglin in the hope that his dropping out of the race will encourage other peripheral parties on the right – notably Otzma Yehudit and Noam – to make a deal with the Prime Minister and leave the election, ensuring greater numbers of votes for the Likud, Yemina, or the chareidi parties.