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24.07.2014
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Will Bennett get first pick of ministerial posts?
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Mati Tuchfeld

Habayit Hayehudi is fuming

Members of Habayit Hayehudi's inner circle are already fuming over party leader Naftali Bennett's recent conduct. They are complaining abut him in private conversations and private discussions held far from the media's watchful eye.

While it is said that Labor destroys its leaders, at least according to the party's constitution a failing chairman cannot be ousted through primary elections until he or she has served at least 14 months. The National Religious Party, which merged with other national Zionist parties to form Habayit Hayehudi, has a much less forgiving history. Since its inception, the National Religious Party has bumped quite a few chairmen, not necessarily differentiating between failing and successful leaders.

At the same time that Bennett is deliberating whether to cancel the agreement he forced on Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid and join the coalition without him, the battle of ministerial portfolios is already well underway within Habayit Hayehudi. Nissan Slomiansky, Uri Orbach and new MK Avi Wartzman are already working diligently with central party members and activists to become the minister second to Bennett. Other MKs — veteran and amateur — are eyeing government roles that would open up should Habayit Hayehudi join the coalition, such as the chairmanship of important Knesset committees, the positions of deputy Knesset speaker and deputy minister, and others.

Members of Habayit Hayehudi's sister party, Tekuma, were angered by the coalition deal Bennett inked with Lapid. They criticized Bennett for signing the agreement without prior coordination and in the face of decisive opposition from influential rabbis within the party. Uri Ariel, Tekuma's senior representative, has been following Bennett and putting out his fires, maneuvering between chief rabbis and Likud MKs, haredim and Yesh Atid representatives, and tirelessly running from meeting to meeting.

Senior Habayit Hayehudi representatives are saying that despite Bennett's welcome achievement in the elections, he is writing the end of his political career through his recent conduct. One rabbi has already threatened to work towards ousting Bennett should he go against Torah. Even party MKs have joined the chorus of criticism, albeit from behind closed doors. Though they may want Bennett gone, they also want to avoid hampering coalition negotiations and hurting their chances of landing senior positions in the upcoming government.

Still, the powder keg is set to go off.

What would happen should Bennett's agreement with Lapid keep Habayit Hayehudi outside the coalition, one of the faction's MKs was asked on Monday.

First we'll oust Bennett, he casually replied.

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