The right-winger chooses a former Labor Party activist to replace a candidate close to the rabbis, soon after tapping a former soccer star.
Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett has tapped a right-wing author for the 15th spot on his party’s ticket, demoting another woman whom he considers too conservative, political sources told Haaretz.
The new 15th person on the slate, Anat Roth, was once a member of the Labor Party and Peace Now before embracing both religion and right-wing politics.
“Religious Zionism always claimed to be open to anyone but never really opened up,” Bennett told the Arutz Sheva radio station. “We currently have eight settlers on our list and the question is can we open our house and hearts to others who differ from us — in deed, not just in words.”
Roth has worked for a right-wing group in East Jerusalem and has written two books: one on the Yesha Council of settlers’ struggle against the Gaza pullout and the construction of the separation fence, one on the right wing’s campaign against the court-ordered dismantling of the Amona outpost.
In the past, Roth worked as an aide to a Labor chief, Amram Mitzna, and a cabinet member, Matan Vilnai. She is replacing Yehudit Shilat, the wife of a rabbi whom Bennett reportedly sees as too close to right-wing rabbis.
Habayit Hayehudi reserves a place for a woman for every five spots on the party’s ticket. Bennett also has the right to choose a person for each group of five. He reportedly had been keen to remove Shilat from the third group of five.
Roth received Bennett’s support during the Habayit Hayehudi primary but won only 6,961 votes, putting her in the fifth group of five. Shilat captured 8,336 votes.
Shilat will now move down to the 20th spot on the list and is thus unlikely to make the Knesset. Shilat told Army Radio she hopes “Bennett will honor party voters’ wishes and Anat understands that this move is unseemly.”
Bennett’s decision is likely to anger some party members simply because Shilat received more votes than Roth in the primary. Many people in the party also hope to move up candidates like writer Ronen Shoval and former Yesha chief Dani Dayan, neither of whom currently has a good chance of reaching the Knesset.
On Monday, Bennett was harshly criticized by party members after putting former soccer star Eli Ohana in the party’s top 10.
Lev Solodkin, the Habayit Hayehudi student leader at Tel Aviv University, wrote to Bennett on Facebook: “What does it say about you that you gave an assured spot to someone like Ohana, denying a spot to party members who worked their butts off in the primary?”
According to Solodkin, “I’m not one of the settlers with a military jacket and an Uzi over my shoulder. I’m a young secular man from central Israel. You may lose me and my friends if this man is the best you could come up with for the guaranteed spot.”
Bennett told Aruz Sheva: “We could have brought in another settler, but our test is in opening up and leaving our comfort zone. Another settler would have left us small, but Ohana is a leader. He was a coach and has skills.”