Kahanist Party Threatens to Break Away From Israeli Far-right Political Alliance

Otzma Yehudit party leaders say they feel 'abused' by other partners in Union of Right-Wing Parties, will consider collaborating with others ahead of new election

Otzma Yehudit's Itamar Ben-Gvir on Election Day, April 9, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

Marking a rift among Israel's far-right political alliance, the leaders of Kahanist party Otzma Yehudit said Tuesday that the political outfit will break away from the Union of Right-Wing Parties. 

The joint slate, which has some members who support the late, racist rabbi Meir Kahane, was formed ahead of Israel's previous election with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's blessing in a move that sparked criticism in Israel and abroad. 

Otzma Yehudit leaders explained that they feel "abused" by the other factions in the ticket, and would look to join forces with other right-wing parties ahead of the September 17 election.

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However, National Union said that just the day before it reaffirmed the agreement between the three parties that form the alliance, "and calls on our partners to do the same. We don't have the privilege to get to unnecessary fights within the right."

"Our joint run brought an election win, which were it not for [Yisrael Beiteinu's Avigdor] Lieberman would have enabled the formation of a right-wing government," Otzma Yehudit told Union of Right-Wing Parties Chairman Rafi Peretz, who was appointed last week interim education minister, along with National Union leader Bezalel Smotrich, who was appointed transportation minister.

After announcing Peretz's and Smotrich's positions,Netanyahu tweeted: "The deep and strong partnership between Likud and the religious-Zionist movement and the Union of Right-wing Parties will continue during election campaigns and after it."

In a letter sent to Peretz, Otzma Yehudit said Habayit Hayehudi officials acted "disgracefully" in preventing positions and funding from the Kahanist faction, arguing: "That is no way to handle partners, to say thank you."

The party mentioned Peretz's and Smotrich's refusal to resign from the Knesset following their appointments, which it claimed prevented Otzma Yehudit's Itamar Ben-Gvir from becoming a Knesset member.

Parties will have until early August to finalize Knesset lists, and so any decision made up to that point could be changed. In recent weeks, there have been reports of several initiatives for broader joint slates on the Israeli right.