'Shameful': Pro-Israel Democratic Lobby Slams Netanyahu-Kahanist Cooperation Ahead of Election

This is a rare example of the Democratic Majority for Israel publicly responding to domestic Israeli politics, as Netanyahu signs a surplus vote sharing agreement with far-right party ahead of March's election

Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz
Bottom right, an Otzma Yehudit election poster featuring leader Ben Gvir and Likud's Netanyahu, in 2019.
Bottom right, an Otzma Yehudit election poster featuring leader Ben Gvir and Likud's Netanyahu, in 2019.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz

The Democratic Majority for Israel, a lobby set up to promote pro-Israel candidates in the Democratic Party, condemned on Wednesday the surplus agreement between the Likud and the alliance of religious Zionist parties that includes far-right Otzma Yehudit.

"It’s outrageous that Prime Minister Netanyahu has once again aligned his Likud party with Otzma Yehudit, an extremist party made up of disciples of the late Meir Kahane," said board co-chairs Ann Lewis and Todd Richman in a statement.

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Since its inception in January 2019, the organization, which is affiliated with the more conservative wing of the Democratic Party, has tended to refrain from addressing domestic politics in Israel.

"Otzma Yehudit’s racist beliefs are completely at odds with the values of the State of Israel and should have no place in Israeli institutions. It would be shameful if these extremists entered Israel’s parliament," the statement also said. "We have faith that Israeli voters will reject this representation in their democracy."

Earlier in the day, Likud and Religious Zionism announced they had signed a so-called 'vote-sharing' agreement. Under Israel's complicated electoral system, parties can agree to add up their "surplus" votes – those that don't add up to a full Knesset mandate.

If it adds up to an extra seat, it would generally go to the party with the greater number of surplus votes, usually the bigger of the two.

DMFI was established in response to polls that showed that Democrats and young voters are less likely to support Israel today than in the past. The organization supports the two-state solution and strongly opposes the BDS movement.

The organization's president is Democratic pollster Mark Mellman, who advises, among others, Yair Lapid, the chairman of Israel's Yesh Atid party and current head of the opposition.

Ann Lewis was director of the White House Department of Communications under President Bill Clinton, while Todd Richman is a leading fundraiser for Democratic congressional candidates. DMFI was the first pro-Israel organization to express support for Joe Biden's candidacy for president.

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