New Right leader Naftali Bennett has strongly rejected the possibility of allowing the far-right Otzma Yehudit Party to join a right-wing, religious political alliance, and strongly criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for pressuring him to take the Kahanist group on board.
“I will not include someone on my electoral list who has a picture in his living room of a person who murdered 29 innocent people," said Bennett in a statement on Facebook Wednesday afternoon.
He was referring to Otzma leader Itamar Ben-Gvir who infamously has a picture of Baruch Goldstein, who carried out the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre in 1994, on his living room wall.
“This should be so self-evident that I am shocked that I need to explain it,” continued Bennett.
“Imagine a US congressman who had picture of someone on his wall who killed 29 Jews in a synagogue. Does this sound logical?
“I don’t care how much I am pressured, it’s not even an option, it won’t happen. This is my final decision.”
Netanyahu has strongly pressured Bennett to accept Otzma, similar to the events of the April and September elections when the prime minister also strongly pressured the right wing parties to accept the extremist Kahanist party onto its joint list.
“The prime minister summon [Bayit Yehudi leader] Rabbi Rafi Peretz and help him join us and call on Ben Gvir to withdraw the candidacy of Otzma. If he succeeds in doing this the right-wing won’t lose even one vote,” continued Bennett, adding “it’s in the hands of the prime minister.”
The religious-Zionist political parties have been riven by internal fighting and factionalism in recent months.
New Right led by Bennett initially refused to unite with any of the other religious right-wing parties, but on Tuesday acquiesced to Netanyahu’s demands to run together with the National Union party.
National Union split from its long time, natural partner Bayit Yehudi to join New Right because of a fight over the leadership of a join Bayit Yehudi - National Union list and joined New Right.
Peretz united Bayit Yehudi with Otzma in December to outflank Smotrich, and is currently still refusing to join New Right and National Union without Otzma.
Now that Bennett has categorically ruled out running with Otzma, it remains to be seen if Peretz sticks by his pledge and risks running with the far-right party on a joint list that has a good chance of failing to clear the electoral threshold and crashing out of the Knesset, or elects to save his political career and that of his party.