March 25, 2023

Over the years, small right-wing parties that failed to make it past the minimum electoral threshold have done considerable damage to the national camp.

Israeli election campaigns are strewn with the remains of parties that failed to make it past the minimum electoral threshold of 3.25%, thereby wasting their supporters’ votes. The Right has been particularly “successful” at it, and if it doesn’t come to its senses, could see a repeat of its dubious past performance in the 2022 election.

Small right-wing parties have done considerable damage to the national camp over the years. Back in 1992, Tehiya received only 1.2% of valid votes, and was kept out of the Knesset. If it had made it past the minimum threshold, it might have prevented the Left from closing ranks and thwarted the disastrous Oslo Accords.

In April 2019, there was a particularly cacophonous fiasco when the New Right (under Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked) and Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut Yehudit party both failed to reach the minimum threshold, preventing a right-wing majority.

Together, the two right-wing parties lost at least 257,000 votes, which in that election was equal to about seven seats! In the election that followed, in September 2019, the right-wing bloc weakened again, this time because the far-right Otzma Yehudit was left out of the Knesset, along with its 84,000 votes.

And now, a few right-wing movements could once again wind up committing political suicide. Alongside the Likud, the Haredi parties, and the Religious Zionist Party, there are two other parties that are highly unlikely to make it to or over the minimum threshold – the remnants of Yamina, under Shaked, and the historic National Religious Party’s successor Habayit Hayehudi, which is trying to reinvent itself.

Minor differences among right-wing parties

The obvious solution would be for the two parties to run on a joint ticket. The alternative is political hara-kiri. Experience teaches us that if these parties want to stay alive, they need to overcome the problems of the past – especially personal rivalries and soured relationships – and join forces. Their ideological differences are small, not to say microscopic, and they can easily reach an agreement on ideological matters.

Even when it comes to the biggest question of all – Netanyahu, yes or no? – the solution is on the table – to announce from the start that they will join a Netanyahu government if the mandates they win together will give him a 61-member right-wing bloc. In a scenario in which he doesn’t have 61 votes, they will at least give him a broad right-wing government.

In such a scenario, Shaked, who did an excellent job as justice and interior minister, can stop trying to eat her cake and have it, too. In her current position, she is losing out twice. The voters who aren’t willing to hear from Bibi but admire Shaked will refrain from supporting her for fear she will join a Netanyahu government.

Voters who want to vote for Shaked in order for her to join a Netanyahu government as part of the ideological Right are concerned about her crossing more ideological lines to join a government that includes left-wing parties and Ra’am.

Joining a new list will make it easier for Shaked to move toward Netanyahu, which she is naturally inclined to do. Shaked is the one who for months blocked a bill that would prevent a person under criminal indictment from holding office and tried twice to form a government with Netanyahu and the Likud.

A third possibility for a joint ticket is Amichai Chikli, if he isn’t allotted a reserved place on the Likud list. Chikli’s biggest public asset is his ideological trustworthiness. It’s very hard to find MKs like him who say what they truly believe, but Chikli – if he runs alone – could discover that this isn’t enough. Despite the friction between him and Shaked, he might find that joining her and Habayit Hayehudi is the smart move.

Israeli politics has seen stranger bedfellows than these, between much more bitter rivals. Shaked and Habayit Hayehudi and even Chikli, if necessary, can do it, too. The choice they face is a stark one – they can be dependent on each other outside the Knesset, or dependent on each other within a new framework that would prevent another chain collision on the Right that would bring all three of them down.

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