Editorial

Kahane Returns to the Knesset

The party that considers itself a bastion of morality has turned itself into the door through which despicable racists and violent nationalists will enter the halls of power

Haaretz Editorial
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Habayit Hayehudi members vote to unite with Otzma Yehudit on February 20, 2019.
Habayit Hayehudi members vote to unite with Otzma Yehudit on February 20, 2019.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Haaretz Editorial

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lust for power knows no limits. The pressure he brought to bear on Habayit Hayehudi and National Union – including a promise of the housing and education ministries, two seats in the security cabinet and a reserved spot on the Likud list for one of their members – bore fruit. Rabbi Rafi Peretz responded to Netanyahu’s call to unite with the Otzma Yehudit party, comprised of followers of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, which will receive slots No. 5 and No. 8 on the joint ticket. 

Thus, under the sponsorship of a prime minister who is prepared to sacrifice every principle and smash every institution in his battle to entrench his regime, the followers of Kahane will return to the Knesset riding like the Messiah on the donkey of religious Zionism.

>> Courting Kahanists, Netanyahu takes politics to the gutter | Analysis ■ The Kahanists and the homophobes: The two parties no one wants but Netanyahu needs

Kahane’s Kach party, which championed the deportation of the Arabs from all of “Eretz Israel,” was disqualified from contending for Knesset in 1988 because its platform contained racist incitement. It held a Knesset seat from 1984 until 1988. After the massacre by Baruch Goldstein, a Kach activist, at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in 1994, the government declared the Kach and Kahane Chai movements illegal terror organizations. Kach is also on the American and EU lists of terror groups. But none of this matters to Netanyahu, who is determined to win at any price.

Otzma Yehudit is the political home of Kahane’s students and admirers, extreme Arab-haters who believe in Jewish supremacy, among them the founder of the Lehava movement, the radical-right group that opposes personal relationships between Jews and non-Jews. The Kahanists followed the “advice” of the party’s rabbis – Rabbi Dov Lior, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu and Rabbi Yehuda Kroizer – who told them to accept the compromise because the fate of the Land of Israel is at stake.

This was an extreme move for Habayit Hayehudi as well. Senior party members, among them MK Moti Yogev, exerted great pressure on Peretz to block the union. Journalist Yifat Ehrlich, who is No. 3 on Habayit Hayehudi’s slate, said most of the party opposed the union and that the party’s central committee wouldn’t approve it. The fact that even National Union head Bezalel Smotrich, a racist nationalist, opposed the link demonstrates how bad the Kahanists are.

It’s ironic that the party that considers itself a bastion of morality has turned itself into the door through which despicable racists and violent nationalists will enter the Knesset. All the talk about the need to create a “technical bloc” to “prevent the loss of seats on the right” cannot blur the “moral” choice made by religious Zionism, Netanyahu and the right-wing bloc.

This is chilling proof of the direction the right is taking, led by Netanyahu. Meretz chairwoman Tamar Zandberg announced that if Habayit Hayehudi submits a slate with Otzma Yehudit candidates on it, her party will petition the Central Elections Committee to disqualify it. Otzma Yehudit should not be allowed to run.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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