The surplus-vote agreement that Likud signed Wednesday with Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir’s Religious Zionism alliance tells the whole story. When the parties running in the election for the 24th Knesset had to pair off according to ideological proximity for vote-sharing agreements, Gideon Sa’ar went with Naftali Bennett, Yair Lapid signed with Avigdor Lieberman, Benny Gantz teamed up with Yaron Zelekha – and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu twinned with Ben-Gvir.
The move exposed the truth about today’s Likud: The party of Menachem Begin is now the best friend of the party of the student of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane. Netanyahu, in his fight to stay in power, will use any means and take on any partners, even the ideological vermin of the benighted racist Kahane.
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Netanyahu did not only sign a kashrut certificate for Kahanism and its representative in the Knesset; in effect, he is also both the matchmaker and the best man of the electoral alliance between Smotrich (the chairman of the National Union) and Ben-Gvir (chairman of Otzma Yehudit). It was only due to Netanyahu, who sought to draw to his side another right-wing party that will recommend that he be asked to form the government after the March 23 election, and thanks to the political dowry he promised them, that Smotrich and Ben-Gvir came together last week in a joint slate.
Ben-Gvir has been trying for some time to worm his way into the Knesset, so far without success. In the April 2019 election he ran together with Smotrich and Rafi Peretz’s Habayit Hayehudi (then, too, thanks to Netanyahu’s matchmaking efforts) as the Union of Right-Wing Parties, but Ben-Gvir didn’t make it into the Knesset. In the following two elections, Ben-Gvir ran alone and failed to meet the electoral threshold.
If Kahane’s successor is voted into the legislature in March, it will be yet another of the shady accomplishments of “the magician.” Needless to say, there’s no magic here: When there are no moral limits, the room for political maneuver is nearly infinite.
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The bride-price paid by Netanyahu is considerable. In exchange for the alliance between the National Union and Otzma Yehudit, he reserved a high slot on Likud’s slate for a Religious Zionism candidate and also promised them a seat on the Judicial Appointments Committee. In other words, Netanyahu didn’t play matchmaker only between Smotrich and Ben-Gvir, but also between them and Likud.
Netanyahu’s actions are an admission that Kahanism is an ally, a frequent visitor and practically a member of the Likud family. “The sides will devote their energy to the success of the two parties in the Knesset,” said a statement issued on behalf of Religious Zionism. Of course: The success of one is the success of both. That’s how it is when two actually become one.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.