Kahanists Gear Up for Third Israeli Election With Far-right Merger

Far-right parties, Habayit Hayehudi and Otzma Yehudit call on the National Union party to close ranks and team-up ahead of the March 2 vote

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Members of Otzma Yehudit speak to Israeli press.
Members of Otzma Yehudit speak to Israeli press.Credit: Emil Salman

The far-right Habayit Hayehudi party and the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit said Friday they would run on a joint slate in the March 2 general election, strengthening the bloc to the right of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud.

In the April 9 election, the two parties and National Union announced their merger and ran together on the Union of Right-Wing Parties slate. National Union has yet to announce how it will run in the coming election.

Pedophiles and politics: Why is an alleged child rapist still in Israel?Credit: Ep. 53

Habayit Hayehudi and Otzma Yehudit released a joint statement, saying that the March 2 election "Will be crucial to the Israel's future and the right-wing bloc in particular. The public is tired of struggles and disagreements and wants unity in the religious Zionist and the right-wing bloc. Not uniformity but unity," the statement read. It added that only if all parties to the right of Likud come together can the current right-wing government be saved.

"We must not reach a situation in which one of [the right-wing] parties doesn’t pass the electoral threshold, thus wasting thousands right-wing votes," the statement added.

In addition, it said that Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Rafi Peretz and Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben-Gvir call on National Union's Bezalel Smotrich to "Close ranks as soon as today, and join the ranks of religious Zionism. National Union is an inseparable part of the Union of Right-Wing Parties." Ben-Gvir added that the merger between the parties would be the key to "garner 61 Knesset seats and form a right-wing government."

National Union's Bezalel Smotrich (center) with Israel's education minister Rafi Peretz (left) from Habayit Hayehudi and Hayamin Hehadash's Ayelet Shaked in Ramat Gan, September 2019.Credit: David Bachar

Kahol Lavan, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's main political rival, Benny Gantz, released a statement saying: "The legacy of Jewish extremist leader Rabbi Meir Kahane lives on and is on its way to be part of the Israeli Knesset just because of Netanyahu's legal predicament. The coming election will decide [Israel's fate] – a messianic, racist immunity government or a national reconciliation government."

Democratic Union Chairman Nitzan Horowitz said in a statement that Habayit Hayehudi's joint run with Otzma Yehudit is "a partnership of hatred, an alliance of racism."

Democratic Union is comprised of Nitzan Horowitz's Meretz, the Green Movement, headed by Stav Shaffir, and the Israel Democratic Party, headed by Yair Golan. In the September election, the three factions teamed up to form a joint slate.

"After Netanyahu himself legitimized a partnership with the Kahanists in the previous election round, this time the leaders of the religious Zionism lost their shame earlier than expected, and teamed up with the extreme right of the worst kind. The people of Otzma Yehudit are spearing a Jewish, violent and dangerous racism. It has no room in Israeli society," Horowitz said.

He added that only the left can fight racism. "A left that advocates for equality for all. Left that builds an Arab-Jewish partnership."
On Thursday, lawmaker Ayelet Shaked said she plans on running alongside Defense Minister Naftali Bennett in the next election as part of the Hayamin Hehadash.

Hayamin Hehadash, which Shaked and Bennett launched ahead of this year's first election after quitting Habayit Hayehudi, failed to cross the threshold required to enter the Knesset in the April election. For the September 2019 election, the party ran on a joint religious Zionist slate alongside Habayit Hayehudi and National Union.

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