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Israel's right-wing parties join forces ahead of September election

Former justice minister Ayelet Shaked to lead broad alliance between her New Right and the Union of Right-Wing Parties
Polls on 19 July had shown that Shaked could more than double the Union of Right-Wing Parties’ seats in parliament (AFP)

A broad alliance between Israeli right-wing parties was announced on Sunday to be led by Ayelet Shaked, the former justice minister, and Education Minister Rafi Peretz, who will both run on a joint card in September's general election.

Peretz, a rabbi and former pilot who dropped his demands to head the party slate, tweeted that unity between Shaked's New Right and the Union of Right-Wing Parties “is a common goal of all of us”.

Shaked urged Peretz of the Jewish Home party, a member of the Union of Right-Wing Parties, and Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the National Union, “to unite all of the religious Zionist and the secular ideological right-wing”.

Polls on 19 July had shown that Shaked could more than double the Union of Right-Wing Parties’ seats in Israel’s parliament if she were to lead the grouping of right-wing factions.

Shaked, who once belonged to the Jewish Home party, recently took the helm of the New Right party she had previously formed with Naftali Bennett.

The New Right failed to pass the threshold of votes necessary to gain seats in Israel's April election.

With Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unable to form a government, new polls were set for September.

Shaked's appointment has been received with mixed feelings by the religious far-right in Israel.

The influential Rabbi Shlomo Aviner of Yeshiva Ateret in Jerusalem argued that women should not be involved in politics, while Shaked herself has said many times that she is not religious herself.

Netanyahu pressure

Polls indicate that many of the votes which Shaked could draw to the Union of the Right Parties would come from Netanyahu’s Likud party.

According to leaked recordings, the prime minister’s wife Sarah Netanyahu, who is on bad terms with Shaked, spoke with Peretz’s wife and urged her not to allow the former justice minister to take the chairwomanship of the alliance.

Netanyahu and his wife also put pressure on Peretz not to join forces with Shaked and Bennett, the Haaretz newspaper reported.

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The right-wing union comes a week after the left-wing Meretz and the Democratic Union, the new party of former prime minister Ehud Barak, announced their own alliance ahead of the general election.

The alliance is not expected to constitute a major threat from the left to Netanyahu's rule, but it comes amid a series of political splits and alliances across the Israeli political spectrum in the past several months.

Meretz barely passed the threshold in April's general election, which saw Netanyahu and his right-wing and religious allies finish ahead of Israel's left-wing, centrist and centre-right parties.

However, Israel's parliament called a new vote when Netanyahu failed to form a majority coalition after the election.