Kahanist Party Won't Drop Israeli Election Campaign Despite Pressure, Leader Says

Itamar Ben-Gvir, whose party was ditched from right-wing alliance, says he was offered important positions in exchange for bowing out of the race

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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Itamar Ben-Gvir at a press conference in Jerusalem on January 20, 2020.
Itamar Ben-Gvir at a press conference in Jerusalem on January 20, 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

The far-right, Kahanist Otzma Yehudit party will run in the upcoming election despite its leader being offered a cabinet role in exchange for quitting the race, chairman Itamar Ben-Gvir said Monday.

Last week saw parties to the right of Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud merge in an 11th-hour deal after Habayit Hayehudi turned its back on a union with Otzma Yehudit, with Ben-Gvir vowing that the party would run on its own.

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"I received proposals from the most important figures in the coalition," Ben-Gvir said at a press conference in Jerusalem on Monday. "I was offered being a minister on behalf of one of the ultra-Orthodox parties, I was offered roles in the Jewish National Fund, [and] I was event offered the role of an ambassador."

Ben-Gvir added that "we have a better chance to pass [the 3.25 percent vote threshold required to enter the Knesset] than Netanyahu has to form a government. Read my lips – we will go all the way."

Otzma Yehudit's leaders are supporters of the extremist right-wing rabbi Meir Kahane, the founder and leader of Israel's openly racist Kach party in the 1970s and '80s.

On Thursday, Netanyahu called on Ben-Gvir to quit the race.

Political sources assess that Otzma Yehudit is expected to receive tens of thousands of votes in the March election, and is on the verge of the vote threshold. The party received 83,609 votes in September's election, failing to meet the threshold, which stood at 147,892.

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