Political update Monday 22 December

Will they or won’t they? Well, they didn’t. After weeks of speculation, vacillation and hesitation, Tekuma decided to remain a part of the Bayit Yehudi faction instead of breaking away to join Eli Yishai. Inside Bayit Yehudi they’re likely to win several seats in the next election. As part of Yishai’s new party they risked winning fewer or even none. One Israeli commentator described the decision as ” a choice between winning the lottery or jumping off a roof”. Nevertheless, Tekuma nearly chose the roof, with party leader Uri Ariel speaking in favour of the split. Reportedly, one reason that the Tekuma central committee decided to stay in Bayit Yehudi was that joining Yishai would have banned women from running for the party. One of Tekuma’s current MKs, Orit Struck, would have found herself barred from their list. Anyway, after all that fuss nothing much has changed except that Tekuma managed to get a better seats deal out of Naftali Bennett and the relationship between Bennett and Ariel must be pretty awful.

Of course, it’s also bad news for Eli Yishai, whose new party without Tekuma looks a lot like it might fail to get any seats at all. That could change if he announces some popular list members or wins the backing of enough Shas-supporting Rabbis.

In Likud, Moshe Feiglin dropped out of the race for the Likud leadership after the party decided to hold the leadership and primary elections on the same day.  Other Likud members are still trying to get the two elections to be run separately by taking the issue to court. Benjamin Netanyahu got into trouble for allegedly using Likud party resources to help his leadership campaign, forcing him to write a letter of apology to the party.

Tzipi Livni’s HaTnua party doesn’t really exist anymore, but it still managed to have its own internal argument. Elazar Stern, a current MK for HaTnua, hit out at Ms Livni for merging with Labour and leaving him without a party or a seat. There are rumour he might join Yisrael Beiteinu.

Tzipi Livni was also attacked by Likud after John Kerry went around telling people she’d convinced him to block the Palestinian UN plan because it would strengthen the Israeli right. Likud said that this proved that Livni was in cahoots with the USA to oust Netanyahu, while Livni said it proved that she has real international influence.

Meanwhile, the two big parties are both tacking centrewards. Mr Netanyahu agreed to raise the minimum wage for public sector workers, a key demand of the Left, and Issac Herzog and Tzipi Livni spoke about the importance of maintaining Israeli control over Jerusalem, especially the Western Wall.

Labour has also asked that we please call Isaac Herzog ‘Isaac Herzog’ and not by his nickname ‘Bouji’. Lots of Israeli politicians have nicknames that they often picked up in the army – Bibi Netanyahu, Boogie Yaalon – but apparently ‘Bouji’ doesn’t sound Prime-Ministerial.

And finally Channel 2 has set up a Whatsapp group for Knesset members which apparently now has a quarter of all current MKs and a few candidates. It seems to be the place to be, full of arguments, self-promotion and sarcastic comments. I’m trying to work out how to get invited myself.