A religious-nationalist party in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government split on Saturday, with its leaders saying they were bolting to appeal to more secular constituents ahead of an April election.
The Jewish Home party’s schism posed no immediate threat to Netanyahu, for whom polls predict an easy win to a fifth term. But it suggested his fellow rightists were interested in poaching votes from a center-left opposition energized by the candidacy of an Israeli ex-general, Benny Gantz.
Leaders of the religious-nationalist Jewish Home party announced on Saturday that they were quitting to form a new political party ahead of April elections in Israel. https://t.co/WcKyu9VAKX
— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) December 30, 2018
The Jewish Home leader, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, told reporters that he and his deputy, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, were leaving to form
“A new party, of religious and secular together … in true partnership”.
The party, “New Right”, would, like Jewish Home, pursue hawkish security policies including opposition to a Palestinian state, Bennett said.
It was not immediately clear whether Jewish Home was also continuing as a party.
A religious-nationalist party in #Israel|i Prime Minister Benjamin #Netanyahu’s coalition government split on Saturday, with its leaders saying they were bolting to appeal to more secular constituents ahead of an April election:https://t.co/4rGLegsY6f
— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) December 29, 2018
Prior to Bennett’s announcement, polls had predicted the party would take around the same number in the April 9 vote, trailing Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party and at least three center-left parties.
Bennett has frequently locked horns with Netanyahu, accusing the prime minister of being too restrained in Gaza fighting.
Ex-Israeli army chief Benny Gantz, considered top Netanyahu challenger, launches political party https://t.co/fzNXYXLG1J
— Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) December 27, 2018
After Bennett’s announcement, Likud issued a statement saying that only by voting for it would right wingers “guarantee that the next government … will not be a left-wing government”.
Jewish Home, which has drawn on support from Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank, had eight of parliament’s 120 seats.
(MEMO, PC, Social Media)