Education and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked held a press conference Saturday night to announce they were leaving the religious, right-wing Jewish Home Party and starting a new party called “The New Right,” which they hope will unite religious and secular Israelis.
During their press conference, Bennett and Shaked expressed their hopes to “regain Knesset seats that have slipped from the Likud to the left, to parties that claim to be right-wing but are in fact left.”
“I want to be very, very clear,” Bennett stated. “The New Right party is right-wing, no buts and no sort-of’s. [We are] in favor of the Land of Israel without compromise, against a Palestinian state, period.”
“If there had been a party like this 13 years ago, the disengagement [from Gush Katif] would not have happened,” he added, lamenting that while the Jewish Home had given a lot of support to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the influence of Jewish Home had been stilted by a sense that Netanyahu believed religious Zionists were “in his pocket.”
Despite leaving Jewish Home, the ministers said they would likely unite with their former party following the elections to create a strong right-wing block in a future government.
The move was the latest shakeup in the run toward elections on April 9.
In a recent poll conducted by the Panels Politics polling agency for the Maariv daily newspaper, the Jewish Home party was expected to garner an additional three Knesset mandates, from eight seats to 11.
According to Jewish Home Knesset Member Bezalel Smotrich, Bennett and Shaked left the party because the pair do not believe that they can contend for the leadership of the country as long as they are heading up a party which gears itself specifically to religious voters.
Knesset member Shuli Moalem-Refaeli is also reportedly leaving Jewish Home to join Bennett and Shaked.
Additional reports indicate that Bennett and Shaked may have been at odds with long-time politician, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, and MK Smotrich, and that the breakup may have been caused by new demands brought by the Tkuma faction within the Jewish Home Party.