JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s former justice minister Ayelet Shaked is head of the New Right party, replacing Naftali Bennett, the former education minister.
The announcement came on Sunday night in Ramat Gan, after weeks of uncertainty about Shaked’s political future. Shaked and Bennett reportedly met on Saturday night prior to the announcement.
Shaked and Bennett broke with the right-wing Jewish Home Party ahead of the April elections to form the New Right Party, which they said is based on a “full and equal partnership” between Orthodox and secular Israelis. The party failed to cross the 3.25 percent vote threshold necessary to enter Knesset by fewer than 1,500 votes.
Shaked had been wooed in recent weeks by the Union of Right Wing Parties, which includes Jewish Home, to run on their joint list, but she had demanded to head the union instead of Rafi Peretz, who has just in this month made major political blunders, including calling intermarriage a “second Holocaust,” and appearing to support gay conversion therapy.
It is likely that Shaked will make a new bid to add the New Right to the union under her leadership. Polls show a united right wing earning more votes under Shaked then Peretz.
At the news conference on Sunday Bennett called for the right wing parties to join together under Shaked. He also tweeted earlier in the day: “The country is more important than personal advancement. And what the country needs now is a united right.”
The New Right also becomes the only party to be headed by a woman.
National elections are scheduled for Sept. 17.