Going too far

Perhaps the new alignments on the Left – such as the Thursday agreement between Meretz and Ehud Barak’s Israel Democratic Party – have caused the prime minister to panic.

July 25, 2019 22:46
3 minute read.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU – the elections were all about him

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU – the elections were all about him. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will do anything he can, it appears, to boost the right-wing bloc ahead of the September 17 election. After becoming the longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s history, he now plans an unprecedented fourth consecutive term.

His latest move, according to Jerusalem Post reporter Jeremy Sharon, is aimed at shoring up a future right-wing coalition by pressing Bayit Yehudi and National Union to bring in the far-right Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) to their political alliance.

If media reports are to be believed, Netanyahu has gone as far as offering Bayit Yehudi and National Union two ministerial posts in his next government if they cut a deal with Otzma. He is reportedly worried that if the three parties run separately, they won’t reach the 3.25% electoral threshold, their votes would be lost and he would have difficulty forming a coalition after the September vote.
According to Channel 12, Netanyahu made the proposal in a conversation on Tuesday with Education Minister Rabbi Rafi Peretz, leader of Bayit Yehudi. According to a Walla report, he conditioned the offer on the two religious parties aligning with Otzma before inviting the New Right party – now under the leadership of Ayelet Shaked – to join them.

Netanyahu made a similar move before the April 9 election, which cleared the way for Otzma to join Bayit Yehudi and National Union in a large coalition named the Union of Right-Wing Parties. While what is now called the United Right won only five seats in the April election, it is expected to be strengthened in the September election by the addition of the New Right and the leadership of Shaked.
The Likud said in response that the prime minister “does not give out portfolios, and does not intervene in mergers on the Right.”
A source in Bayit Yehudi told the Post that there is a “basic agreement” between Bayit Yehudi, National Union and the Likud that the two parties would get two ministerial positions regardless of whether they bring in Otzma.

For its part, Otzma said it is demanding that it be given four spots – including the third place – on a combined list with Bayit Yehudi and National Union.

Perhaps the new alignments on the Left – such as the Thursday agreement between Meretz and Ehud Barak’s Israel Democratic Party – have caused the prime minister to panic.

But while we understand his desire to expand the right-wing bloc so that he has more than 60 seats to form a new government after September 17, forging an alliance with Otzma is crossing a redline.

The leaders of Otzma Yehudit, such as Itamar Ben-Gvir and Michael Ben-Ari, consider themselves the ideological heirs of Rabbi Meir Kahane’s banned Kach movement, and their ideology is a dangerous one for Israel.

Just as Kahane advocated the expulsion of Israeli Arabs, Otzma believes Israel should deport Palestinians who refuse to declare loyalty to the Jewish state.

Kach is still classified as a terrorist group by the US, and the inclusion of Otzma in any Israeli government would potentially harm not just Israel’s democratic image but also its close relationship with Washington.

On March 17, the High Court of Justice banned Ben-Ari from running for the Knesset, after ruling that his anti-Arab sentiments were racist and could potentially incite violence against Arabs.

The justices’ 8-1 vote in favor of a petition calling for Ben-Ari to be disqualified followed the Central Elections Committee approving his candidacy. The ban, which was recommended by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, represented the first time in the court’s history that the candidacy of an individual has been barred.

Ben-Ari’s response was to lash out at “the judicial junta” seeking to run Israel. Netanyahu might feel the same way about the Supreme Court, but as a prime minister facing charges of corruption himself, he should be careful about choosing potential coalition partners like Otzma which are beyond the pale of what should be legitimate in Israel.

If Netanyahu truly believes in Israel being a strong democracy that upholds the rule of law, he should reject an alliance with Otzma Yehudit – and those who support him should too.

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