Habayit Hayehudi activists, led by attorney Yossi Fuchs, Chairman of the Legal Forum for Israel, are convinced Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is a more capable leader for their party than Chairman Naftali Bennett, one who could help Habayit Hayehudi establish itself as a prominent power in the next Knesset.
To prove their point, Fuchs et al have ordered a poll from one of Israel’s most reliable pollsters, Rafi Smith, and the results backed them up.
Shaked “increases and changes the part supporters,” Smith told Army Radio on Tuesday. “While Bennett attracts his traditional supporters, she draws a different crowd.”
Shaked, who has been Bennett’s partner since the two of them worked for candidate Benjamin Netanyahu, has been an enigma in Habayit Hayehudi: a secular woman in a largely religious party. But, interestingly, while Bennett has been urging his members to part ways with Habayit Hayehudi’s more religiously devout members, MK Bezalel Smotrich and Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, Shaked and her backers get along with the more “Haredi” party Tekuma faction.
“We believe our public doesn’t have a problem with them,” Fuchs told Army Radio, “We simply need to replace the man at the helm.”
The poll results show that Shaked consistently siphons votes from the competition:
Should the elections be held today, the Likud would get 20% of the vote with Bennett at the helm of Habayit Hayehudi, but only 17% with Shaked. That’s a net loss of 3% to the Netanyahu camp should they face Shaked.
Labor gets 9% of the vote with Bennett, only 8% when competing against Shaked.
Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid wins 19% versus Bennett, only 18% against Shaked.
Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon takes 4% against Bennett, only 3% against Shaked – which means that should Shaked lead Habayit Hayehudi, Ya’alon won’t make it to the Knesset, due to the 3.75% threshold.
Finally, Habayit Hayehudi gets 12 seats come next elections with Bennett as Chairman, and close to 14.5% seats under Shaked. With some luck and threshold-remainder deals with sister parties, Habayit Hayehudi could end up with a whopping 15 seats, probably the third-largest party after Liked and Yesh Atid.
Predictably Minister Ariel doubts the veracity of the poll results, viewing them as nothing more than trial balloons flown up by the Justice Minister’s supporters. “Let her run in the primaries [for Chairperson],” Ariel told Army Radio, “then we’ll see.”
Shaked is probably the most popular rightwing minister today, the only politician in her camp who managed to tame the Supreme Court and clip some of its claws. Should she succeed in blocking the appointment of the next Supreme Court President by seniority, thus denying anti-settlements Justice Esther Hayut the power that has been wielded by the left for some 25 years, Shaked could become a cultural hero, the superwoman who accomplished what so many politicians before her had failed to do.
The above is not necessarily a prediction, but, who knows, on any given election day…