Bayit Yehudi, Likud spar over far-right party Otzma

Israel's right-wing parties argue over who should unite with whom to prevent a left-wing victory.

Baruch Marzel  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Baruch Marzel
Far-right party Otzma Yehudit could add two seats to the right-wing bloc, but no party seems to want to run with them, with Likud and Bayit Yehudi telling each other to adopt the party.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly talked to Bayit Yehudi head Rabbi Rafi Peretz and National Union leader Bezalel Smotrich, as well as rabbis and other prominent religious-Zionist figures, to try to convince them to run with Otzma, and continued the efforts on Monday.
Otzma received 3% of the vote in a Channel 12 poll on Sunday, just short of the 3.25% electoral threshold.
The deadline to submit party lists is on Thursday, meaning that any party mergers must take place before then.
“With Tzipi Livni leaving politics in order not to waste left-wing votes and [Israel Resilience Party leader Benny] Gantz working to unite with [Gesher chairwoman] Orly Levy-Abecassis so the Left does not lose one vote, Bayit Yehudi and National Union must show responsibility and act without delay to unite all the forces on the Right,” a Likud spokesman warned, “or else the Left bloc will win, Gantz will form a left-wing government and it will be a tragedy for generations.”
Otzma is a party led by ex-MK Michael Ben-Ari, Hebron activist Baruch Marzel and anti-miscegenation (intermarriage) crusader Benzi Gopstein – all former students of Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose party was banned from running for the Knesset on grounds of racist incitement – as well as far-right activist and attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir.
Bayit Yehudi’s spokesman said that they “have not yet succeeded in our many efforts to run as a technical bloc in the list.”
Party officials referred to it as a technical bloc, meaning that they would not share a platform and Otzma would break away soon after the new Knesset was sworn in.
“In light of this, we expect the prime minister and the Likud – and [New Right leaders Naftali] Bennett and [Ayelet] Shaked – to show responsibility for the Right bloc in this critical time before submitting the lists and bring them into their lists,” Bayit Yehudi’s spokesman said.
Likud retorted that their message is “irresponsible and worse than disingenuous.”
Netanyahu’s spokesman argued that polls show that adding Otzma to Likud could hurt the bloc, while only a Bayit Yehudi-National Union-Otzma merger will expand it.
“Likud doesn’t care about the bloc,” Bayit Yehudi said. “They only care about the Likud, and that’s it... The Likud with 30 seats should have no problem giving three realistic places to Otzma Yehudit. If Otzma voters don’t vote Likud, then they will vote for parties to its Right, and then the bloc will be saved... Everything else is spin.”
Otzma accused Bayit Yehudi’s message of being “spin” and accused the bloc’s leadership of “rejecting a technical bloc that could save the Land of Israel.”
“There is no reason to sit in a meeting of humiliation and disrespect,” a party spokesman said. “In recent weeks, we held meetings... and they were misleading us and only want to look like they’re negotiating.”
Earlier this week, Otzma asked attorney Yoram Sheftel to lead their list. Sheftel is best known for defending Nazi John Demjanjuk in his trial in Israel, but in recent years has been a far-right radio and television personality, and a staunch defender of Hebron shooter Elor Azaria.