Ben-Gvir splits from Smotrich, calls on Netanyahu to give in to demands

Itamar Ben-Gvir beseeched Netanyahu to agree to Smotrich's "legitimate demands" as he announced the technical Knesset split.

 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.  (photo credit: FLASH90)
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.
(photo credit: FLASH90)

Otzma Yehudit head MK Itamar Ben-Gvir announced his intention to split his Knesset faction from the Religious Zionist Party headed by MK Bezalel Smotrich on Friday afternoon.

The faction split, which was agreed upon in the initial agreements to form a unified list for the election, comes in the midst of coalition negotiations with prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu. Smotrich's negotiations with the Likud head have stalled due to the Religious Zionists head's demand to take up the Defense Ministry.

In the same statement announcing the split, Otzma Yehudit said its leader beseeched Netanyahu to agree to Smotrich's "legitimate demands," which Ben-Gvir said would help the incoming government fulfill its "fully right-wing" vision, in a Friday phone call.

Various reports since Netanyahu's election victory claim the former prime minister is mindful of US concerns over the potential appointments of Smotrich and Ben-Gvir as ministers in his government. 

 L: Otzma Yehudit leader MK Itamar Ben Gvir. R: Likud leader, former-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV) L: Otzma Yehudit leader MK Itamar Ben Gvir. R: Likud leader, former-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

As Smotrich stalls, Ben-Gvir gains ground in negotiations

As Smotrich is unable to find common ground with Netanyahu, Ben-Gvir's negotiations with the prime minister-designate progressed significantly, with the two agreeing on Thursday to work on a number of issues important to the right-wing, including the regulation of illegal West Bank outposts.

Despite this, Ben-Gvir reiterated on Friday that he maintains complete loyalty to coordinating with Smotrich and believes his political partner’s demands are completely reasonable and justified.

Ben-Gvir previously defended Smotrich on Twitter, saying that he is an "ideologue through and through," calling on all coalition partners to "act responsibly" and form a right-wing government.