What happened: The New Right, the National Union and the Jewish Home agreed to run on a unified list in the 2 March election.
- The dramatic decision came minutes before last night’s deadline to register parties and candidate lists.
- The unified party is a recreation of the Yamina party that ran in the 17 September election and won 7 seats with 260,000 votes, but this time Naftali Bennett will lead the party instead of Ayelet Shaked.
- The new merger excludes the Jewish Power party (Otzma Yehudit) who had already agreed to merge with Jewish Home. They will now run independently and are not likely to win any seats in the election. Jewish Power received 83,000 votes in September and 1.88 per cent of the vote – far short of the required 3.25 per cent to win seats in the Israeli Parliament.
- On the Left, Stav Shaffir, who was excluded from the Labour-Meretz merger, announced yesterday that she will not stand in the election but promised to build the Green Party into a protest movement for the next election.
- Gadi Yeverkan, a Knesset member from the Blue and White party, defected yesterday to join the Likud. Yevarkan, a member of the Telem faction led by former Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon and number 33 on the Blue and White list, was placed as number 20 on the Likud party list.
Context: The smaller right-wing parties were placed under intense pressure, in particular by Benjamin Netanyahu, to form a united party in order to avoid wasted votes and win as many seats as possible.
- Analysts recognised Netanyahu’s ability once again to influence a right-wing merger, but they also credit Naftali Bennett for holding firm and refusing to merge with Jewish Power due to their devotion to the racist ideas of the late Meir Kahane. Jewish Power candidates have previously been disqualified by the Central Elections Committee and the High Court of Justice for inciting racism and violence against Arab citizens.
- Blue and White leader Benny Gantz responded to the merger saying: “The voters for stately religious Zionism have lost their political home. Racism, homophobia and exclusion are not Jewish values.”
Looking ahead: Yesterday’s deadline to submit parties and candidate lists marks the start of the campaign for the 2 March election.
- The polls have consistently predicted little change since the 17 September election so every seat counts in the battle to break the political deadlock.
- In Israel’s party list proportionate representation system parties only win seats if they get at least 3.25 per cent of the overall vote. Naftali Bennett’s failure to win any seats with his New Right party in April 2019 forced every small party to merge with other parties ahead of the September election. This consolidation led to the Labour-Meretz merger and the Yamina reformation.
- Although the new Yamina party merger ensures both Jewish Home and the New Right will win seats, the Jewish Power party are unlikely to win any seats and that could amount to a critical loss of at least two seats after the 2 March election for the right-wing ultra-orthodox bloc.