Remaining a united bloc will allow Smotrich to negotiate for the top cabinet positions, namely defense, justice, or finance minister.
Religious Zionist Party (RZP) chairman MK Bezalel Smotrich and Otzma Yehudit faction leader MK Itamar Ben-Gvir, who is number two on the RZP list, will negotiate with incoming prime minister MK Benjamin Netanyahu as one coordinated bloc, the two announced in a statement on Sunday.
RZP won 14 seats in the election, which will be divided among its three factions: Ichud Leumi-Tekuma led by Smotrich (seven seats), Otzma Yehudit led by Ben-Gvir (six seats) and Noam led by MK Avi Maoz (one seat). Smotrich and Ben-Gvir will thus negotiate as one party with 13 seats – two more than the 11 won by Shas – allowing them to demand the highest ministerial positions.
Unconfirmed reports over the weekend by a number of political correspondents suggested that Netanyahu did not want to give Smotrich any of the three positions considered to be most desirable – Defense Minister, Finance Minister or Justice Minister.
However, remaining a united bloc with Ben-Gvir will give Smotrich more leverage to demand either the Finance Ministry or the Defense Ministry portfolios.
The announcement came on Sunday during the first of Netanyahu’s meetings with the upcoming coalition faction heads. These include United Torah Judaism’s Lithuanian Degel Hatorah Faction leader MK Moshe Gafni, as well as head of the Hasidic Agudat Yisrael faction Yizhak Goldknopf, as well as Shas leader Aryeh Deri and RZP’s Smotrich and Maoz.
His meeting with Ben-Gvir was postponed until Monday, however, since the Otzma Yehudit leader is on vacation in Eilat until then.