Yemina Up in Arms Over Netanyahu’s Vote Siphoning

MK Betzalel Smotrich. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

After comments Friday by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu urging voters on the right not to cast their votes for both Otzma Yehudit and Yamina, heads of the latter party will meet Sunday in an emergency meeting to discuss ways to prevent hemorrhaging of votes to the Likud. Party officials were livid, saying that “if voters buy the spin of Netanyahu, Religious Zionism will be no more. Netanyahu is out to eliminate us; notice that he does not call on voters not to choose United Torah Judaism or Shas.”

In social media posts late Friday afternoon, Netanyahu said that “the right is likely to lose the election. If the Likud gets fewer seats than Blue and White, they will be given the job of establishing the government,” and there is a possibility they could get 61 Knesset members, together with Avigdor Liberman’s party and the Arab parties. To avoid that, he recommended that all rightwing voters choose the Likud. “We must not repeat the foolish mistake of the past and vote for a party like Otzma Yehudit that will not pass the electoral threshold; they have less support than Zehut or New Right did in the last election. And it doesn’t matter if Yemina gets one less Knesset seat.”

Speaking Motzoei Shabbos, MK Betzalel Smotrich said that contrary to Netanyahu’s optimism regarding Yemina, “our position in the polls is not good. We must keep in mind that in all recent elections the Likud ended up with more seats than the polls predicted, and we ended up with less. Netanyahu’s ‘feeding off’ our voters is killing us and will greatly harm our ability to have an impact on policy.”

Otzma Yehudit also protested, with party head Itamar Ben Gvir saying that “the attempt by Netanyahu to take away votes from us and prevent us from passing the electoral threshold proves one thing – that he has decided to set up a government with Benny Gantz and prevent the establishment of a rightwing government. Only if Otzma Yehudit is in the Knesset will there be 61 rightwing MKs. We will ensure that Netanyahu establishes that government.”

A major rally by a coalition of rightwing groups set for Monday night has been canceled. The sponsoring group, “Zazim Yemina,” was set to recruit volunteers for Election Day at the rally from among Religious Zionist voters, but in the wake of Netanyahu’s comments, Nir Orbach, the organization’s head, told the Serugim news site that “as soon as we realized that Netanyahu was competing with us for votes we decided to halt cooperation with him.”