Israel elections: Ofir Sofer leads Religious Zionist Party list

"These are fateful elections for the future of the country," Smotrich said after the results were announced

 Religious Zionist party leader Betzalel Smotrich speaks after the results of the party's primaries are released, August 23, 2022 (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
Religious Zionist party leader Betzalel Smotrich speaks after the results of the party's primaries are released, August 23, 2022
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

MK Ofir Sofer won the primary election vote of Religious Zionism Party’s Knesset list, and was followed by MKs Orit Struck, Simcha Rothman, Michal Waldiger and settler leader Tzvi Sukkot.

Sofer, 47, entered politics in 2014. He served as a major in the IDF and has said publicly that he suffered from PTSD. Sofer was decorated for bravery after rescuing injured soldiers under fire at Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus in 1996, during which he was seriously injured. He has served as an MK since 2019 and, among other roles, led a subcommittee of the Labor, Welfare and Health Knesset Committee that dealt with treating people suffering from shock or PTSD.

“These are fateful elections for the future of the country,” party leader Bezalel Smotrich said after the results were announced. “We saw the results in the past year of the bad government that relied on Ra’am and the Islamic movement, and later on the Joint List.

"We saw the results in the past year of the bad government that relied on Ra'am and Islamic Movement, and later on the Joint List."

Religious Zionist Party head Bezalel Smotrich

“This tarnished the national honor, led to the streaming of funds to the Islamic movement and caused the Arab enemy to lift its head,” he said. “This cannot happen again.”

 Religious Zionist Party head Bezalel Smotrich at the party's voting station.  (credit: Courtesy) Religious Zionist Party head Bezalel Smotrich at the party's voting station. (credit: Courtesy)

Smotrich repeatedly called Ra’am and the Joint List “terror supporters,” although the term did not appear in the text of the speech that was sent out afterward.

The RZP head then called on all party leaders to sign a loyalty statement not to join a government that includes Arab parties.

He displayed a large poster that looked like Israel’s Declaration of Independence and began with the same words, but was later altered. The title of the poster was “A Declaration of Loyalty to the State of Israel.”

 Religious Zionist Party head Bezalel Smotrich at the party's voting station.  (credit: Courtesy) Religious Zionist Party head Bezalel Smotrich at the party's voting station. (credit: Courtesy)

The logo of the party

“Based on the experience of the last year, we hereby declare that we will not give a hand to forming a government relying on Ra’am and the Muslim Brotherhood and the Joint List, under no condition or circumstance,” the card read.

“We will not do so no matter the price, for no political capital or position, because the good of the country and its safety are what matters most,” the poster read. Smotrich then signed it.

Out of its 24,113 eligible voters, some 81% cast their votes, the party said.

Who else made the list?

Following the first five, numbers six to 16 are Moshe Solomon, Yizhak Chai Zaga, Arnon Segal, Naama Zarbiv, Rachel Tzinkin, Meir Seidler, Yosef Shpeizer, David Fine, Eliran Yaish, Moshe Bahata and Moshe Roth.

 As party leader, Smotrich will automatically occupy the first spot on the list. In a poll published by Ma’ariv on Friday, his party received five mandates versus Otzma Yehudit’s seven. According to the poll, the MKs would be Smotrich, Sofer, Struck, Rothman and Waldiger – the same RZP MKs that are currently serving in the Knesset.

Smotrich commented on former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s call earlier on Tuesday afternoon that he and Otzma Yehudit head Itamar Ben-Gvir should run together in the upcoming Knesset elections. The two held talks for over a month until Ben-Gvir announced on August 15 that Otzma Yehudit would run alone.

Is this house divided? 

“I agree with [Netanyahu] and call on Itamar – my hand is extended for unity. Let us meet tomorrow already until white smoke comes out in order to agree on a [joint] election run, along with the wonderful team we chose today,” he said.

Smotrich has also reportedly been holding talks with former Yamina MK Amichai Chikli, in order to award him a spot on the list. When asked about it, he replied that he wanted the party to grow as much as possible.

Ben-Gvir responded to Netanyahu’s call as well, stressing that he had chased after Smotrich for a month and a half in attempts to reach an agreement, but had found that “there was no partner.”

“Bezalel is interested in Chikli and is in negotiations with him. We respect his decision and will do everything to exhaust the votes of the Right!” he wrote on Twitter.