Israel’s New Right Party leader Naftali Bennett and National Union head Bezalel Smotrich officially parted ways on Monday, after a week of reported tensions between the two over the Yamina alliance’s direction ahead of the March 23 elections.

Yamina insiders said that Smotrich demanded four slots for his faction in Yamina’s future slate, while Bennett insisted on only two.

Announcing the split, Smotrich said he and Bennett were “going our separate ways,” adding that Bennett was focused on the economy while he was set on “uniting the religious-Zionist sector, and chiefly to be the ideological right-wing voice in the Knesset.”

The New Right sufficed with a tweet saying, “Smotrich has chosen to split the right. We wish him the best of luck going forward.”

Yamina was formed ahead of the April 2019 elections as a faction comprising the New Right, Bayit Yehudi and National Union parties. After Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to invite Bennett to join the coalition following the September 2020 elections, Yamina headed for the opposition, at which point Bayit Yehudi broke with it, joining the coalition.

Recent polls, however, predict that Bayit Yehudi will be unable to pass the prerequisite four-seat electoral threshold. Last week, party leader Rafi Peretz announced he was exiting politics.

While it is unclear who will lead the party or even if it plans to vie for the next Knesset, Bennett is said to be in negotiations with its members to join him, either as New Right members or as a faction in Yamina.

A poll published by Radio 103 FM on Monday gave the National Union, running on its own, four seats—the minimal number of seats necessary to pass the electoral threshold. Yamina, without the hawkish Smotrich, was projected to win 17 seats, positioning it as the second-largest faction in parliament.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.


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