December 5, 2022

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Otzma Yehudit Separates from Religious Zionism

3 min read

On Sunday, the Religious Zionism party ended technical electoral alliance, as the far-right party divided into three Knesset factions, with the constituent parties starting their parliamentary work.

The elections on November 1st saw the joint ticket secure 14 seats, but their request to split received approval from the Knesset’s Arrangement Committee.

Therefore, it means that the Religious Zionism party of Bezalel Smotrich now has 7 seats in the Knesset, while the Otzma Yehudit party of Ben Gvir has 6 and 1 seat belongs to the small Noam party.

Pre-election agreement

According to sources close to the now-independent factions, this move had already been agreed to before the elections.

However, it comes at a time when coalition negotiations have become stalled between Smotrich and the head of the Likud party, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Smotrich of the Religious Zionism party wants the Finance Ministry, which is also the target of the Shas party, or he wants the Defense Ministry, but Washington is not in favor of this move.

This division could reduce the leverage that Smotrich has with Benjamin Netanyahu in negotiations, but Otzma Yehudit has promised to support Religious Zionism.

On Sunday, party officials denied that there was any political significance associated with the timing of the split.

Complete cooperation

A Religious Zionism spokesman said that Ben Gvir and Smotrich were coordinating and Ben Gvir also said the same.

Simcha Rothman, a party MK, also backed this up by stating that it had been the plan from the beginning and there had been an agreement that it would happen after entering the Knesset.

Yitzhak Wasserlauf, an MK of the Otzma Yehudit party, who is expected to be minister in the future, also asserted that this was part of the procedure and did not have anything to do with the coalition negotiations.

Almog Cohen, a lawmaker from the Otzma Yehudit party, also stated that this was only a technical issue and had nothing to do with the negotiations.

Technical issue

He stated that they would require a faction room for conducting their faction meetings and they also require parliamentary tools for helping citizens who require their assistance.

He said that only as a separate faction would they be able to get all of these things. There is a difference between factions and parties in Israeli politics.

The terms may often be used interchangeably, but a party is usually referred to a political platform existing outside the parliament.

As for a Knesset faction, it can represent a single or even multiple parties that are part of the Knesset, but have a single leader.

According to a source, the strategies of the three parties had now changed because they were going to be part of a coalition.

They are now a part of the bloc led by the Likud party that won a 64-seat majority in the Knesset in the elections that took place on November 1st.

Rather than using their power to topple the outgoing government, the parties now plan on fighting for leverage, influence and space in the ruling coalition.

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