Likud has sent a letter of support to Dutch anti-Muslim politician Geert Wilders, even while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may need the support of the Islamist party Ra’am (United Arab List) to remain in office.
Michael Kleiner, president of Likud’s court, and Eli Vered Hazan, its director of foreign affairs, sent a letter to Wilders last week, commending his “courageous campaign.”
“Being attacked so vehemently by your rivals and yet staying such a substantial force in your parliament is an astonishing achievement,” the letter reads. “May it also serve your party as a springboard for the future.”
Kleiner and Hazan signed the letter as Wilder’s “devoted friends and followers.”
Wilders tweeted his thanks in Hebrew and English and said he would like to visit Israel later this year.
The letter to Wilders was dated April 12, the same day on which the Dutch lawmaker tweeted: “Stop Islam. Stop Ramadan. Freedom. No Islam.”
The tweet featured a video that said: “Islam does not belong in the Netherlands.”
Wilders has built a career on opposing Islam in the Netherlands. He has compared Islam to Nazism and the Koran to Mein Kampf, seeking to have it banned.
On Sunday, Kleiner said he was not aware of the video against Ramadan.
“We have had ties with [Wilders] for many years, and we congratulated him on his achievement in the election,” Kleiner said. “He’s a friend of Israel who supports all pro-Israel initiatives in the Dutch parliament and supports our right to the Land of Israel.”
The only area in which he totally agrees with Wilders is on Israel, Kleiner said, adding that he was not endorsing the Dutch politician broadly.
“If he says he’s against celebrating Ramadan, then I disagree with him,” he said. “I’m for freedom of religion. Everyone should be able to celebrate their holidays, in Israel and in Europe.”
Kleiner praised Ra’am for being willing to sit in or support a governing coalition based on agreements on civil matters.
Netanyahu is in negotiations to form another government and has considered forming a minority coalition with outside support from Ra’am. However, the Religious Zionist Party, which is in Netanyahu’s bloc, refuses to sit with the Islamist party.
Hazan on Sunday said he disagrees with Wilders’ positions on Muslims but supports him for being pro-Israel.
“I don’t like his opinions against Muslims,” he said. “But on the other hand, in Holland, a party... called D66 [rose in strength, and it] is pro-Palestinian, and Wilders supports Israel,” Hazan said. “This is our way of saying thanks.”
D66 came in second place in the Dutch general election last month, with 24 seats in the Netherlands’ House of Representatives. Wilder’s Party for Freedom received 17 seats.
D66 leader Sigrid Kaag is married to a Palestinian, Anis al-Qaq, who was a deputy minister under Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian representative to Switzerland, according to Haaretz, Hazan said. Kaag is a former official for UNRWA, the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees.
MK Ahmed Tibi (Joint List) shared the Likud’s letter on twitter, saying: “This is the same Likud led by Netanyahu who courted Arab votes and is still continuing. As we said...it’s temporary.”
Officials in the Muslim world responded angrily to Wilder’s anti-Ramadan tweet.
Pakistani President Imran Khan called for “Western governments who have outlawed any negative comment on the Holocaust to use the same standards to penalize those deliberately spreading their message of hate against Muslims by abusing our Prophet.”
Wilders has a “racist and fascist mind,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party spokesman said, adding that “enemies of Islam also hate migrants, poor people, needy people and foreigners.”