TEL AVIV – Education Minister and leader of the Jewish Home party Naftali Bennett, along with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked announced on Saturday that they were quitting the party to set up a new secular-religious platform called HaYamin HeHadash (“The New Right”).
The Orthodox Bennett and the secular Shaked said they would serve as the co-heads of the new party, which would reflect a “true partnership between secular and religious” Israelis.
Bennett said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believed religious Zionists were “in his pocket” for the upcoming April 9 elections and support for Jewish Home was gradually declining.
“In the past year and particularly in recent months that age of our great influence ended,” he said.
He slammed Netanyahu for calling for early elections when only weeks ago the prime minister insisted that it would be a terrible move for the country because of Israel’s security developments in the south and north. At the time, the prime minister implored Bennett and Shaked to walk back their decision to quit the government.
“We were forced to fold and remain in the government despite what we believe,” Bennett said. “Four weeks later when the prime minister decided elections were good for him, he did it.” There was no longer any talk of “an emergency security situation,” charged Bennett, because the time was right for the cynical Netanyahu.
“We’ll 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,” said Shaked. “The party will strengthen the right.”
“I want to be very very clear,” Bennett said. “The New Right party is right-wing, no buts and no sort-ofs. 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 would not have happened,” he added, referring to the Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip that paved the way for Hamas’ rule of rockets.
The move prompted condemnation from Culture Minister Miri Regev and former defense minister Avigdor Liberman, with Regev calling them leftists.
“Naftali Bennett has joined the Left, after leaking nonstop from the cabinet meetings,” Regev said. “He and Ayelet Shaked did not learn the lessons of the 1992 elections: they are saboteurs firing their weapons inside the tank. It is an imitation Likud.”
HaYamin HeHadash’s new spokesperson responded by pointing out that Regev “was the enthusiastic spokeswoman for the disengagement from Gaza, snickering while thousands of Jewish families were pulled from their homes in Gush Katif and their lands given over to Israel’s enemies.”
Liberman told Army Radio that the new parties formed by former IDF chief Benny Gantz and Bennett “were nothing more than hot air.”
“We will continue long after they are gone,” he said.