Far-right Alliance Fizzles as Kahanist Party Announces Solo Run

Kahanist party Otzma Yehudit initially looked to join anti-LGBTQ Noam party, rather than the United Right headed by Ayelet Shaked, in an agreement that has since fallen through

Itamar Ben Gvir of Otzma Yehudit at the party's campaign launch in Jerusalem, July 6, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

The Kahanist far-right Otzma Yehudit party and far-right Zehut party will both be running independently in the September 17 election, the parties announced Thursday, ahead of the deadline for party registration.

The announcement by Zehut, headed by extreme rightist Moshe Feiglin, raises fears on the right that the party will again fail to pass the Knesset threshold and lose votes that otherwise would have gained additional Knesset seats for the right-wing bloc.

>> Israel’s do-over election: A guide to all the parties and who holds the keys to the next government

Meanwhile, the Kahanist party Otzma Yehudit initially agreed in principle on Wednesday to run together with the nationalist-ultra-Orthodox party Noam, but both parties have since announced they would run separately.

The stated reason behind the deal falling through was a disagreement over the inclusion of a secular candidate on the slate, with Noam insisting the list be made up solely of religious Zionist candidates. In a joint statement, the two parties said they parted on amicable terms.

Over the past several days Otzma Yehudit conducted talks about joining up with United Right, but a dispute remains about the placement of Otzma Yehudit’s candidates on the ticket. 

>> Israel’s do-over election: A guide to all the parties and who holds the keys to the next government

In its talks with United Right, Otzma Yehudit had demanded two of the first 10 slots, including the fifth spot for Ben-Gvir. United Right objected, in part because it would mean pushing out Moti Yogev of Habayit Hayehudi and Ofir Sofer, a close friend of Bezalel Smotrich, from the National Union. United Right offered Otzma Yehudit the eighth and 16th places on the slate, but the party refused.

"This time, we also wanted to make a large alliance of true partnership," Ben-Gvir said in Knesset Thursday night. He said that after sitting with Ayelet Shaked a number of times and being denied the slots he requested, "There are people there who, due to their ego, blew up this situation," but despite this, "I am pointing the arrows at Naftali Bennett, who seemed to have formed an alliance with Yair Lapid, and I hope he will not form a left-wing government with him." 

He continued, "They offered me the eighth seat, to be deputy minister, deputy head of the Knesset, but I'm interested in ideology, not Knesset seats."  

Ben-Gvir told Army Radio on Wednesday that United Right isn’t really interested in having his party join, and he blamed Rafi Peretz, Smotrich and Naftali Bennett for this. “In my opinion there’s someone in this Habayit Hayehudi that wants to put a spoke in Ayelet Shaked’s wheels,” he said. “There’s someone who I think doesn’t want her to succeed, who wants her to fail.”

During the interview Ben-Gvir said, “The addition of Otzma Yehudit could save the right-wing camp.” He added that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “hasn’t suddenly fallen in love with Itamar Ben-Gvir – he has never even spoken to me – but he understands simple math.”

According to a poll released Tuesday by Channel 12 News, United Right would get 12 Knesset seats, going up to 13 if it ran with Otzma Yehudit. The extra seat, however, would come at the expense of Likud and wouldn’t change the strength of the right-wing bloc.

Behind the Noam party is the head of Jerusalem’s Har Hamor Yeshiva, Rabbi Zvi Thau. Most of its activities have focused on battling LGBT rights on grounds that they pose a threat to the “Jewish family” of heterosexual parents and their biological children.

When a party registers with the Central Elections Committee it also gets the Hebrew letter or letters that will appear on its voting slips at the polls. Parties in the outgoing Knesset get to keep the letters they used last time. New parties must choose from available letters or ask permission to use a letter that’s already taken.