Former Justice minister Ayelet Shaked is to lead the New Right party in the upcoming September election.
Shaked and Naftali Bennett formed the party ahead of the April election but failed to win seats in the Israeli Parliament. Bennett said during a press conference in Ramat Gan that: “After the elections, I took full responsibility for the results. I am doing this now.” Bennett effectively stood aside to give Shaked the leadership of the party in acknowledgement that polls have shown that she could win more seats. If New Right merges with the United Right party, polls predict that the merged party could win 13 seats.
Shaked is understood to have preferred to join Likud, but Israeli media have reported that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, was against the move. It has also been reported that Prime Minister Netanyahu told United Right leader Rafi Peretz not to give up his position to Shaked.
In her speech, Shaked called for a merger among right-wing parties: “Mergers will be the insurance policy of the ideological right. I call upon the heads of the ideological parties to the right of the Likud [to unite]. The differences between us are negligible in the face of the challenges that lie ahead.”
Final party lists are not due to be submitted until 1 August while discussions over mergers within different right-wing parties are ongoing. The United Right’s Rafi Peretz and Bezalel Smotrich, numbers one and two on the party’s list respectively, issued cautious statements in response to Shaked’s call for unity. Peretz said that: “Now is the time for real unity on the Right.”
Ben Caspit writes in Maariv that: “This is both good and bad news for Netanyahu. Good news, because the right wing will not lose votes. Bad news, because this right wing will include that pair of pests, armed with a sizeable thirst for revenge and free of past commitments.”