Ben-Gvir announces he is running separate from Smotrich

The Otzma Yehudit head stressed that Smotrich refused to allow non-religious zionists to join the party.

Otzma Yehudi head MK Itamar Ben-Gvir announces his independent run for the 25th Knesset, breaking away from the Religious Zionist Party, August 15, 2022 (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
Otzma Yehudi head MK Itamar Ben-Gvir announces his independent run for the 25th Knesset, breaking away from the Religious Zionist Party, August 15, 2022
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

Otzma Yehudit head Itamar Ben-Gvir announced on Monday evening that he would be running alone in the upcoming elections for the 25th Knesset, separate from Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionist Party.

“In the past month and a half, I did everything in order to run together with my friends in the Religious Zionist Party. At first, Bezalel Smotrich refused categorically to hold negotiations, afterward, he agreed but it seems that he did so only for the sake of appearance,” said Ben-Gvir, stressing that Smotrich was demanding six out of the eight available places on the list for members of his own party.

“In every poll, in every check, in every study, in every tour where we met public opinion in the field and on the street, we’re multiple times larger than him and he demands three quarters of this party for himself,” lamented the Otzma Yehudit head, adding that, during negotiations, he had given up on the first place on the list and on having a majority of the list for his party.

“In contrast to my friend Bezalel, I want to provide a place for religious Zionists of all types, but not just religious Zionists; also to residents of the periphery, for the North, for the South, for Masorti people, for secular people, for women, for soldiers and for youth,” said Ben-Gvir. “Sadly – despite all my concessions – MK Bezalel Smotrich chose for us not to run together, because he wants mainly ‘classic’ national religious people.”

The Otzma Yehudit head added that he still has hope that Smotrich will come around and decide to meet Ben-Gvir’s requirements to run together, but added that he “respects [Smotrich’s] desire to turn to the audience that votes for Ayelet Shaked.”

 Head of the Religious Zionist Party MK Bezalel Smotrich  gives a press statement at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on May 26, 2021.  (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) Head of the Religious Zionist Party MK Bezalel Smotrich gives a press statement at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on May 26, 2021. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Ben-Gvir also criticized the most recent government for its handling of security issues and economic issues, saying that he wants to replace the current government and has plans to fix the matters that he took issue with, including a death penalty for terrorists and a law giving legal immunity to soldiers and police.

Earlier in the evening, Smotrich and other members of the Religious Zionist Party urged Ben-Gvir to reconsider and to return to negotiations with the party.

Smotrich pleads with Ben-Gvir to reconsider split

“In the middle of a family vacation in the North, I was informed sadly by the media about the intentions of my friend, Itamar, to declare his separation from Religious Zionist [Party] tonight and an independent run [in the elections],” said Smotrich.

“Itamar, my friend, this is a serious error. The national camp cannot permit itself splits and rifts and there is a great danger of votes being thrown in the trash as has happened not just once or twice,” warned Smotrich. “You know, we ran together in the last elections and we brought great success. We combined our powers as a single, united list in Religious Zionist last year and we conducted an extraordinary fight to take down this dangerous and bad government that relied on terrorism supporters from the Muslim Brotherhood.

Smotrich called on Ben-Gvir to return to negotiations and to run with him together.