Completing her pivot away from the outgoing government, Jewish Home leader Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked on Tuesday night asked her supporters and the right wing in general for forgiveness for having joined that government.
Speaking at the campaign launch for her party, Shaked insisted she upheld right-wing policies while serving in the current government, and called on right-wing voters to examine her record as proof that she is a valid nationalist option for them in the November election.
Shaked also rejected calls for her to resign from the government in light of her explicit repudiation, saying she could serve right-wing values better by remaining in her position as interior minister.
The decision made in June 2021 by former prime minister Naftali Bennett and Shaked to take their Yamina party into a government with now-Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, left-wing parties and the Arab Ra’am party infuriated many right-wingers, including many who had supported Yamina.
In the wake of Bennett’s resignation as Yamina leader earlier this year, Shaked, seeking a viable political vehicle to take her back into the Knesset, eventually settled on a joint slate with her old party Jewish Home, under her leadership.
Having already stated last week that she was “returning to the right,” Shaked’s mea culpa on Tuesday night completes her political about-face and disavowal of her former coalition allies.
“Today I request forgiveness from my supporters, from the community I love, whose heart was broken when I joined the effort to establish the last government,” said Shaked at the Jewish Home election campaign launch Tuesday night in Givat Shmuel.
“I believe that you will find it in your hearts to forgive me,” continued Shaked, adding that she knows her decision to help form the last government “broke a million hearts” and “deeply hurt” her supporters.
Shaked claimed that during the coalition negotiations after the 2021 elections she made every effort to form a right-wing government but that Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich and New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar “torpedoed” the effort.
She also attributed the idea of forming the last government to Bennett, saying she made the hardest decision of her public life when “I supported the leader of my party and joined the government,” adding that the choice between new elections and forming a new government had “torn me apart.”
But Shaked insisted that during the course of the last government she had upheld right-wing values and “waved the flag of the settlements, the flag of reforming the justice system, and preserving Israel as a Jewish state.”
She also called on right-wing voters to look at her record in government and pointed to what she described as her successes over the last decade, such as “the Palestinian issue having dropped off the agenda,” reforming the justice system, and advancing right-wing economic policies.
“My mission now, as I lead this party, is to unite a million hearts. To prove to the beloved and hurt public that I always was and always will be on the right,” concluded Shaked, whose party is projected to fall below the electoral threshold and not make it into the Knesset after the November vote.