Israeli right wing parties to merge for March election

What happened: The Jewish Home party confirmed yesterday it will merge with the far-right Jewish Power (Otzma Yehudit) party in the 2 March election.

  • Jewish Power ran separately in the September 2019 election getting 83,000 votes but failing to win any seats.
  • Jewish Power called on another far right party, National Union, led by Bezalel Smotrich to also join the newly merged party.
  • The New Right party, led by Defence Minister Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, announced it will run alone in March election. In the April 2019 election they ran alone and won 138,000 votes and 3.22 per cent of the vote, 0.03 per cent short of the required 3.25 per cent to win any seats in the Israeli Parliament. In September 2019 they merged with the Jewish Home party to form ‘Yamina’ and together won 7 seats and 260,000 votes.
  • Yesterday the parties on the left – Labour-Gesher and Meretz-Democratic Union confirmed they will run on a joint list.
  • The Knesset Arrangements Committee voted yesterday in favour of a motion to establish all of the permanent Knesset committees—including the House Committee, which will debate and vote on Benjamin Netanyahu’s request for parliamentary immunity. It was the first Knesset session in ten years in which the Likud was in a minority position. The Likud will now petition the High Court of Justice in an attempt to stop the House Committee from being formed.

Context: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for a  single unified right wing party to avoid wasted votes if any party fails to reach the 3.25 per cent electoral threshold. Netanyahu worked hard to seal a merger between Jewish Power and Jewish Home before the April 2019 election, promising both parties ministerial posts. Jewish Power has repeatedly failed to get enough votes to win seats in the Knesset and some of its candidates have been disqualified by the Central Elections Committee or the High Court of Justice for inciting racism and violence against Arab citizens.

  • The unification on the left will ensure that both Labour-Gesher and Meretz-Democratic Union win seats. But the joint party list was heavily criticised. The only Arab candidate, Meretz MK Issawi Frej has been given the 11th slot on the list, making his re-election less likely. Stav Shaffir, who left the Labour party to join the (Meretz) Democratic Union in the last election has been left off the list and will decide whether to take a break from politics or run alone as head of the Green Party.
  • According to the latest polling on Channel 12 News; The Blue and White party are predicted to win 34 seats, Likud 31 seats, the Joint List 13 seats, Shas 8 seats, United Torah Judaism 7 seats, Yisrael Beiteinu 7 seats, Labour-Meretz  9 seats, New Right 6 seats, Jewish Home-National Union-Jewish Power 5 seats.  This would produce another stalemate with the Right-wing-religious bloc winning 57 seats, the Centre-left-Arab bloc: 56 seats and Yisrael Beiteinu 7 seats.

Looking ahead: In the current Knesset, the centre-left bloc, led by Blue and White with the support of Yisrael Beteinu have a majority to form the House Committee and reject Benjamin Netanyahu’s request for immunity. The Likud will petition the High Court to delay the process, but it’s also possible Netanyahu may avoid the humiliation of having his immunity request rejected by withdrawing his original request.

  • Despite the polls predicting a similar result to the September election, one significant change is that Benny Gantz and Benjamin Netanyahu are now tied on 39 per cent in the latest survey of who is the preferred candidate for Prime Minister. This is the first time Gantz has been as popular as Netanyahu since he entered politics in January 2019.​​​​​​​