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Israel far-right politician urges unity with religious-Zionist parties

December 16, 2019 at 1:06 pm

Israel’s newly appointed National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir. [Twitter]

Itamar Ben-Gvir, a leading figure in far-right Israeli party Otzma Yehudit, has “called on ministers Rabbi Rafi Peretz and Bezalel Smotrich to form a united party to run in the upcoming election”, reported the Jerusalem Post.

In the April election, Otzma ran on a joint list with Peretz’s Bayit Yehudi and Smotrich’s National Union, but in the September election, the latter two abandoned Otzma Yehudit for an alliance with Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett’s New Right party.

Running alone, Otzma Yehudit won only 83,000 votes, “while a joint list of Bayit Yehudi and National Union is consistently polling either under the electoral threshold” of 3.25 per cent or just above it.

Yesterday, reported the paper, “Ben-Gvir called on Peretz and Smotrich to get together with him and formulate a plan for a united list of all three parties as soon as possible.”

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“I call on Rabbi Rafi Peretz and on Bezalel Smotrich and say it’s enough with the games,” Ben-Gvir said. “We can right now go into a room in the morning, and leave at night with an agreement [for a united electoral list] or with a primaries model.”

However, just the previous evening, Smotrich had suggested he was leaning more towards a repeat of the unity deal between Bayit Yehudit, National Union and New Right.

Smotrich said he had “always opposed the divide in the religious-Zionist community”, and claimed that it had been New Right’s split from Bayit Yehudi in the April election that led to “the chaos we have today”, failing to even mention Otzma.

“If New Right had not left Bayit Yehudi and we would have run as one party, we would be almost a year into a right-wing government right now,” Smotrich declared. “The religious-Zionist movement must not split up, it must run together as one [party], it needs to be big, strong and dominant.”