The 2019 elections have thus far offered an interesting series of shakeups, with new figures entering the political field, veterans retiring, and the disbanding and reformation of new political entities. One of the more dramatic shifts has been the breakup of the national-religious Jewish Home, with Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked splitting off to form yet another party hoping to challenge Likud’s dominance, dubbing themselves the New Right (Hayamin Hehadash). According to recent polls, it is already poised to take in a sizable number of mandates. Like the ubiquitous campaign slogan of their original political home, “something new is starting,” Bennett and Shaked hope their new party, in opposition to Jewish Home’s settler constituency, will cater to a broader audience and break free of its niche religious nationalist appeal. Yet closer inspection of the pair’s track record and their much-publicized worldview reveals that there is nothing new about the New Right.

Bennett and Shaked’s decision to distance themselves from the more radical factions of the political right didn’t start with their recent jettisoning of Jewish Home, but rather in 2013, when they were first starting to make a name for themselves. After being driven out of the Prime Minister’s Office because of supposed differences with Sara Netanyahu, the pair took on the mantle of being the Jewish Home’s official spokespeople, offering themselves as telegenic, accomplished young candidates who had squared the circle of being simultaneously nationalist and ostensibly progressive. Shaked was several spots down the party ticket at the time but has since surpassed Bennett in terms of popularity.

This decision was by no means coincidental. In their attempts to give the party a new lease on life and cater to a wider segment of the electorate, the pair understood the value of marketing themselves as a hip alternative to the stodgy religious parties of the past whose appeal had been confined to the settler right and its supporters. Of course, doing so required keeping a large percentage of the party slate, which included such polarizing figures as Uri Ariel and Orit Strook, as far away from the limelight of interviews and news cameras as humanly possible. Ultimately, their gambit paid off, winning the revamped party twelve mandates up from its previous three in the 2013 elections. While polls predicted an even greater share over the course of the following two years, 2015 saw a reduction in seats, partly due to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s successful last-minute appeals to shore up support for his flagship party in a last-ditch effort to keep the Zionist Union out of power.

Upon establishment of their new party, Bennett and Shaked were openly caustic regarding Jewish Home’s constituency, bitterly exclaiming that they did everything in their power to draw away votes from Likud. The newly anointed New Right, they promised, would not confine itself to Israel’s religious nationalist population, but act as a meeting ground for a larger swath of the electorate—ironically the very goal they had initially set for themselves a few years prior in their attempts to reform their previous political home. The rump party, which Tekuma head  Bezalel Smotrich aims to lead, could now openly pursue its messianic vision to its heart’s content, while the New Right would fashion itself a responsible alternative to the ruling Likud, not beholden to any one interest group, much less one with such fringe beliefs.

Curiously, however, despite talks about moving towards a more inclusive form of politics, the pair decided to bring along with them MK Shuli Mualem, an already problematic figure who wasted no time courting controversy with her declaration that the state should be run according to religious law. Mualem’s statements were disavowed, Bennett quickly confirming the party’s resistance to religious coercion, but the damage was already done, many in the opposition comparing the New Right’s initial positioning of itself as a big-tent party with talking points that seemed little different from those made by members of Jewish Home. Furthermore, the party has touted its recruitment of journalist Caroline Glick, an individual who has never been shy about expressing her desire to see the West Bank annexed in its entirety, leaving Gaza as an isolated statelet.

Taking stock of the pair’s accomplishments over the last four years, one might voice surprise over Bennett and Shaked’s apprehension of being associated with the likes of Mualem. Indeed, the pair has been successful during this administration in pushing an agenda that, despite their wish to appeal to secular moderates, dovetails far more closely with that of the national-religious right. Viewing the Supreme Court as an organ of the government beholden to lawmakers, Shaked believes she has been successful in affecting a change in the court’s behavior with the appointment of a number of conservative judges she deems far less likely to take up judicial activism against legislation considered unconstitutional or challenge any possible overreach by the executive. Whether this is true or not remains to be seen in the long run, yet every action taken by a then Bennett-run Jewish Home—support for the NGO law, the Nation-State law, and the now-frozen Regulation Law—has been in service to a far-right wing agenda, and it is these accomplishments on which their new party hopes to draw voters.

This maximalist worldview that openly flouts and undermines democratic norms has, in fact, always been the stated goal of Bennett and Shaked since they first entered politics, routinely emphasizing their desire to annex large swathes of the West Bank and grant its Palestinian inhabitants a small modicum of independence, allowing for little more than the creation of a glorified protectorate. In this, they may slightly differ from the ultimate goal of some on the religious far-right, who hope to achieve full absorption of the occupied territories. And, as displayed with their reaction to Mualem’s declaration, the pair is not interested in the establishment of a Halakhic state ruled by religious leaders, instead embracing the Gavison-Medan Covenant, a document that tries to create a modus vivendi between the country’s religious and secular communities.

Yet the end goals of Smotrich and Bennett are hardly different enough to merit much of a distinction by citizens worried about the state’s slide into illiberalism; the former envisions a theocratic entity encompassing all of Greater Israel while the latter champions an ethnocracy in only a smaller area of that aforementioned territory that privileges its Jewish citizens above all else. Neither has any room for the trappings of a modern democracy with all the messiness that it entails. Whatever the motivations behind the pair’s move to form their own party — and plenty of cynics would simply claim that it’s primarily being used as a launching pad to enter Likud in a post-Netanyahu world — they would do better by at least being honest about how their stated platform and goals are hardly unique,  nor particularly universal.