Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday warned the leaders of the smaller right-wing parties that unless they join forces ahead of the country’s March 2 elections, the right-wing bloc may fail.
“The right will not forgive [Defense Minister Naftali] Bennett, [Transportation Minister Bezalel] Smotrich and [Education Minister Rabbi Rafi] Peretz if they do not unite into a single list,” Netanyahu tweeted. “Two lists may fall below the electoral threshold and lead to the rise of a leftist government.”
Bennett’s New Right, Smotrich’s National Union and Peretz’s Jewish Home parties ran in a unified bloc prior to the September elections, with the far-right Otzma Yehudit backing away due to disagreements regarding the positions of the seats they were offered in the intermingled party list.
However, Rabbi Peretz recently signed a pact to run with Otzma Yehudit without consulting Smotrich or members of his own party, leading to outrage among his former running mates and discussions between Bennett and Smotrich as to a possible merger.
Recent polls have shown that for now, of the parties in question, only New Right is slated to pass the threshold and enter the next Knesset.
“We appreciate Netanyahu’s concern,” the New Right responded to Netanyahu’s missive. “We will continue our work of bringing votes from the Blue and White and [Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor] Lieberman, for the sake of creating a strong and secure right-wing government for the citizens of Israel.”
The Jewish Home said in response to Netanyahu’s warning that “the Jewish Home calls on Bennett and Smotrich to come and unite with us in one large Jewish Home party,” adding, “From there you came, and to there you should return.”
Right-wing voters, said Jewish Home, wanted unity and would punish parties that appeared not to.
“Past experience has shown us that our constituents do not like splits and punish us for them. The upcoming elections are crucial for the entire right-wing camp, and we must not make light of the issue,” it said.