Kahanist Netanyahu Ally Invokes Hitler in Israeli Election Ad, Draws Ire

Controversial video posted by Netanyahu ally Itamar Ben-Gvir shows election opponents conspiring to annul the country's Jewish character

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Itamar Ben-Gvir campaign add. "Only Ben-Gvir will save Netanyahu"
Itamar Ben-Gvir campaign add. "Only Ben-Gvir will save Netanyahu"Credit: Ofer Vaknin

The far-right Israeli political leader Itamar Ben-Gvir caused an uproar on Saturday when he posted a video that was even criticized by his far-right political partner, Bezalel Smotrich.

The video posted by Ben-Gvir, an ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, depicts a fake group chat in which election candidates plot to take over and fundamentally change the country's character.

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It shows candidates from across the political spectrum would form a coalition with the Joint List alliance of majority-Arab parties, revoke the law of return, change Independence Day to Nakba Day, make Yasser Arafat a national hero, and institute a national day of support for Hamas. It drew particular condemnation for showing Labor Party candidate Ibtisam Mara'ana sending an image of Adolf Hitler with a heart icon.

The "group chat" included opposition leader Yair Lapid, Labor Chairwoman Merav Michaeli, Yamina Chairman Naftali Bennett, and New Hope Chairman Gideon Sa'ar, as well as Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh.  

Smotrich sharply criticized the video, writing on Twitter that "the Holocaust is out of bounds." Ben-Gvir subsequently said that in retrospect, he should have "thought about it a little more" before posting the video, but added that it reflected the truth.

Ben-Gvir and Smotrich are running on a joint slate in the upcoming March election at Netanyahu's urging, hoping to avoid having either of their parties fail to pass the electoral threshold required to enter the Knesset.

This month, Netanyahu's Likud signed a “vote-sharing agreement” with the new slate, Religious Zionism. Under Israel’s electoral system, parties can agree to combine “surplus” votes that amount to less than a full Knesset seat. If the aggregate adds up to an extra seat, it generally goes to the party with the greater number of surplus votes.

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