Israel Election: At Netanyahu's Urging, Kahanist Party Joins Forces With Far-right Slate

Itamar Ben-Gvir's Otzma Yehudit party joins forces with Bezalel Smotrich's National Union Party, with the Kahanist leader set to take the third slot on the list for the fourth Israeli election in two years

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
Itamar Ben-Gvir before the March 2020 election
Itamar Ben-Gvir before the March 2020 electionCredit: Emil Salman
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The far-right Kahanist party, Otzma Yehudit, announced on Wednesday that it will run on a joint slate with the National Union Party in Israel's March election.

National Union said that they are still in talks with the far-right Habayit Hayehudi party and welcome a merger.

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Habayit Hayehudi chairwoman Hagit Moshe said Wednesday morning that a formal announcement would be forthcoming later in the day and that the National Union’s Bezalel Smotrich, who ran with Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party last year, would lead the new slate.

Over the past two weeks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has urged Smotrich to have the three parties run together, but Smotrich has been wary that such a link-up could drive away more moderate voters, his associates have said.

The far-right Kahanist Otzma Yehudit party is headed by Itamar Ben-Gvir, who said that the union is "good news for the right-wing camp in general and religious Zionism in particular" which will provide "an ideological political home, which does not compromise on its values."

Habayit Hayehudi leader Hagit Moshe last month.Credit: Emil Salman

He also called on Moshe to join the union "to ensure the victory of the right in the elections, and to prevent the formation of a dangerous left-wing government."

Negotiations between Habayit Hayehudi and National Union “are progressing,” Moshe told Kan Reshet Bet public radio on Wednesday morning. “We’re running together and under a joint leadership, [and Smotrich] will be in first place” on the party’s slate. The main issue still being debated is the allocation of seats on the joint slate.

Sources from Otzma Yehudit claim that Ben-Gvir will take the third position on the party slate, regardless of whether Habayit Hayehudi joins the union, and will also take the tenth and eleventh slots on the list. The sixth position will go to another far-right group, Noam, with which Ben-Gvir previously signed an agreement for a joint run in the upcoming election.

Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg slammed Netanyahu for "bring[ing] extremist racists into the Knesset just to escape trial for serious corruption charges."

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, leader of The Israelis party, also took the opportunity to slam Netanyahu: "Bibi went out of his way to create a connection between the extreme right and the followers of Kahane. He is planning to achieve immunity off the back of the racism."

With the imminent deadline for party mergers on Thursday at 10 P.M., Huldai also called for a left-wing merger: "If we do not take responsibility now, if we do not unite the center-left, on the day after the election we will find ourselves in a completely different Israel."

According to polling results reported Tuesday evening by Channel 13 News, if the election were held now and the three parties – National Union, Habayit Hayehudi and Otzma Yehudit – ran together, the slate would garner six seats and reduce Netanyahu’s Likud party’s showing to 27 seats and Bennett’s Yamina to eight. Separately, none of the three parties would attract the minimum 3.25 percent of the vote for seats in the Knesset, according to the poll.

The deadline for submission of party slates for the March 23 election, including joint slates comprised of more than one party, is the end of the day Thursday at 10 P.M.

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