'Racist and Reprehensible': AIPAC Slams Kahanist Party Backed by Netanyahu

Pro-Israel lobby group is latest in slamming Otzma Yehudit, the party Netanyahu convinced to join forces with Habayit Hayehudi to increase their chances of winning seats

File photo: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he delivers a statement in Ramat Gan, Israel, February 21, 2019.
Sebastian Scheiner/AP

WASHINGTON – AIPAC, the most powerful pro-Israel lobby group in Washington, joined the wave of criticism in the Jewish community of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu  convinced the party to join forces with the religious-Zionist Habayit Hayehudi party to increase their chances of winning seats in the upcoming election.

On Friday, the organization used its official Twitter account to express support for a statement on the subject by the American Jewish Committee. The AJC comment, which was published Thursday, described Otzma Yehudit as “reprehensible” and noted that in the past, Israel's large parties  refused to cooperate with such extremist forces.

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This could be interpreted a subtle hint at the fact that Netanyahu has been helping Otzma Yehudit, which includes supporters of Rabbi Meir Kahane, strive for seats in the Knesset

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For weeks, Netanyahu has pushed for an election alliance between Otzma Yehudit and Habayit Hayehudi. On Wednesday, he convinced both parties to run on a joint ticket in the April 9 election, increasing their chances of passing the 3.25-percent electoral threshold.

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt also weighed in on criticism of the political merger. “There should be no room for racism & no accommodation for intolerance in Israel or any democracy,” he tweeted. “ADL previously has spoken out on hate-filled rhetoric of leaders of the Otzma Yehudit party, it is troubling that they are being legitimized by this union.”

An official in a group that promotes pro-Israel public diplomacy, who asked not to be named because the organization prefers not to criticize the Israeli government directly, told Haaretz Netanyahu’s actions will be used by the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

“When I saw the headlines, I immediately knew this thing will stay with us for months, and will reach college campuses and the Jewish community,” the official said.