July 19, 2019

An Unlikely Leader for Israel's Religious Right

“Former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is a popular figure on the Israeli right, thanks in part to her success in implementing changes in the judicial system, such as appointing conservative judges to the High Court. Thus the failure of her party, the New Right, to meet the vote threshold of four Knesset seats in the April election was a harsh blow to the right-wing camp. It would also ultimately be one of the main reasons for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s inability to form a new government. The electoral performance by the New Right and Moshe Feigilin’s Zehut, which also failed to pass the vote threshold, cost the right wing some six mandates.

According to polls conducted before the election for the 21st Knesset, other religious Zionist parties were also not assured of meeting the vote threshold, until the intervention of prime minister Netanyahu, who pushed them to form a joint list, the United Right. The union of religious right-wing parties consisted of HaBayit HaYehudi, headed by Rabbi Rafi Peretz, a brigadier general in the reserves who also served as a combat pilot and later chief rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces; the National Union, which is headed by Bezalel Smotrich and has a more conservative stance than HaBayit HaYehudi on religion and state and on diplomacy; and Jewish Power, the party of the adherents of the nationalist extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane. Together, as the United Right, they won five mandates.

Shaked, who in the New Right was second to Naftali Bennett, could now be, thanks to her popularity, a secular woman leading the religious right-wing parties. She is, in effect, making this demand as a condition for joining a religious right joint list.”

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