Far-right Ben-Gvir, Smotrich win big in Israel elections

Bezalel Smotrich: “Today, the Religious Zionist Party made history with the biggest win by a national religious party since the country was founded.”

 Itamar Ben-Gvir gestures following the announcement of exit polls in Israel's general election, at his party headquarters in Jerusalem November 1, 2022.  (photo credit: REUTERS/CORINNA KERN)
Itamar Ben-Gvir gestures following the announcement of exit polls in Israel's general election, at his party headquarters in Jerusalem November 1, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/CORINNA KERN)

The Religious Zionist Party led by MK Bezalel Smotrich and Otzma Yehudit faction leader MK Itamar Ben-Gvir, secured 14 seats in Tuesday’s election, according to exit polls, more than doubling their strength from six seats in the outgoing Knesset.

“Today, the Religious Zionist Party made history with the biggest win by a national religious party since the country was founded,” Smotrich wrote on Twitter after the results were revealed. Supporters at the Smotrich’s headquarters and Ben-Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit headquarters began singing and dancing as news of the forecast broke.

“Today, the Religious Zionist Party made history with the biggest win by a national religious party since the country was founded.”

Bezalel Smotrich

Ben-Gvir's success has been the story of the election in Israel and his growing popularity has raised concerns that Israel's democracy is at risk. Defense Minister Benny Gantz made Ben-Gvir the target of most of his attacks and warned what would happen if the firebrand right-winger - who has called to encourage Arabs to migrate from Israel - would win big in the election.

“We will make sure that people across the country will not be afraid to walk outside … we will fight our enemies from without and within,” Smotrich said during his speech at the post-election party event.

“For the first time since the country was founded, the religious Zionist camp, joined by the traditional and haredi sectors, lovers of the people of Israel, the land of Israel and the Torah of Israel, became the third largest party in the Knesset, and with the largest representation ever in the Knesset.”

 Pictures of MK Itamar Ben Gvir, head of the Otzma Yehudit political party and Chairman of the Religious Zionism party MK Bezalel Smotrich at an election campaign event in Sderot, October 26, 2022.  (credit: FLASH90) Pictures of MK Itamar Ben Gvir, head of the Otzma Yehudit political party and Chairman of the Religious Zionism party MK Bezalel Smotrich at an election campaign event in Sderot, October 26, 2022. (credit: FLASH90)

“During the campaign we heard a lot of statements and threats about what will happen when Smotrich and Ben Gvir return to power and are in the government,” he added.

“I want to say here unequivocally and clearly: our commitment is to serve the entire nation of Israel, Right and Left, religious, secular, orthodox, and traditional, the Jews of Israel and the Jews of the Diaspora, those who agree with us and those who do not,” he said.

Ben Gvir said in his speech, “The time has come for all our children to be able to walk safely on the street. The time has come for IDF soldiers and Israel Police officers to receive backing. The time has come for us to return to being the landlords of our country, which belongs to all of us,” he said.

The two toured the country throughout the day on Tuesday to rally support.

Smotrich and Ben-Gvir toured the country on Tuesday to rally support.

Smotrich claimed in a video that the Arab vote was 10% higher than at the last election, due to “investment of millions of dollars by the Left and international ‘elements.”

“Citizens of Israel, the Left, backed by international elements invested millions of dollars in recent months in order to raise the voting percentage in the Arab sector, and unfortunately, it is working,” he said.

“At this time, the voting percentage in the Arab sector is a full 10% higher than last election. Woe betide us if the keys to the state and the government will be placed in the hands of anti-Zionist terror supporters who are undermining our existence and identifying with our worst enemies,” Smotrich said.

Ben Gvir on Tuesday afternoon flew in a helicopter from Beersheba to Netanya in order to push back against what he said were “reports that [Defense Minister Benny] Gantz is strengthening in the Sharon.”

Throughout the day, Ben-Gvir stressed the importance that RZP finished ahead of Gantz’s National Unity, in order to block the possibility of the formation of a Netanyahu-Gantz government.

Ben-Gvir's success has been the story of the election in Israel and his growing popularity has raised concerns that Israel's democracy is at risk. Defense Minister Benny Gantz made Ben-Gvir the target of most of his attacks and warned what would happen if the firebrand right-winger - who has called to encourage Arabs to migrate from Israel - would win big in the election.