Israel elections: Netanyahu pushes Kahanist into Knesset

Netanyahu wanted to make sure that votes were not lost in the right-wing camp.

Itamar Ben Gvir, head of the Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Strength) party holds a press conference in Jerusalem on March 01, 2020. (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Itamar Ben Gvir, head of the Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Strength) party holds a press conference in Jerusalem on March 01, 2020.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Following pressure from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Religious Zionist Party leader Bezalel Smotrich reached an agreement with far-right Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben-Gvir on Wednesday night to run together in the March 23 election.
Netanyahu wanted to make sure that votes will not be lost in the right-wing camp. He reportedly even agreed to take a candidate from Smotrich’s party who will run on the Likud list and promised ministerial portfolios.
“We are maximizing the potential for a right-wing government to be formed after the election,” Smotrich’s party said.
Ben-Gvir is a follower of slain right-wing extremist leader Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose Kach Party was banned from the Knesset after he served one term as an MK.
“Our bond is good news for anyone who wants an ideological political home that will not compromise on its values,” Ben-Gvir said.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid blasted the deal and warned Likud supporters to reconsider their vote.
“Whoever wants Ben-Gvir to be a minister should vote for Netanyahu,” Lapid said. “The fact that Netanyahu is doing everything possible to bring into the Knesset a Kahanist who supports terrorism and admired [Hebron massacre shooter] Baruch Goldstein is shameful and sickening.”
Ben-Gvir is expected to receive the third slot on the list behind Smotrich, who will be first. The second slot is being saved for Bayit Yehudi leader Hagit Moshe. Another religious-Zionist party called Noam is also part of the deal.
Smotrich decided to sign the deal with Otzma Yehudit and Noam after talks stalled with Moshe.
“They kept giving us new demands and taking back concessions until it all blew up,” a source close to Smotrich said. “So we went to Ben-Gvir and it went quickly.”
Talks will continue with Bayit Yehudi ahead of Thursday night’s deadline for lists to be submitted to the Central Elections Committee.
The New Hope Party of Gideon Sa’ar submitted its list on Wednesday. Sa’ar is followed on the list by MK Yifat Shasha-Biton, former ministers Ze’ev Elkin and Yoaz Hendel and former MKs Sharren Haskel and Bennie Begin. Former consul-general in New York Dani Dayan was placed 11th.
Meanwhile, on the Left, no progress was made toward uniting Labor with any party. Neither Israelis Party chairman Ron Huldai nor Tnufa Party head Ofer Shelah agreed to Labor Party leader Merav Michaeli’s demand to join Labor without their parties. Both Huldai and Shelah may end up announcing on Thursday that they will not run in the election.
“There will be talks all night ahead of Thursday night’s deadline,” a source close to Michaeli said. “We will not be taking chances. It is time for them to come down from the tall trees they climbed.”
The Veterans Party of former Labor MK Danny Yatom announced on Wednesday that it would not run in the election, because the party did not have enough support. Yatom endorsed Lapid.