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Israel: Likud ‘given up’ on convincing far-right party to quit election

Itamar Ben-Gvir, member of Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party [Twitter]
Itamar Ben-Gvir, member of Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party [Twitter]

The Likud party has reportedly “given up on attempts to persuade Itamar Ben Gvir, the leader of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, to withdraw from the election race”, according to sources cited by the Kan broadcaster yesterday.

As covered by the Times of Israel, “according to the report, Likud officials have said all the various offers presented to Ben Gvir have been rejected, and that chances of convincing him are nil.”

Polling has shown that Otzma Yehudit will fall well short of the 3.25 per cent electoral threshold in next week’s election. From Likud’s perspective, this means “right-wing votes being wasted”.

In last September’s election, Otzma Yehudit attracted more than 80,000 votes, “which would have equalled about two Knesset seats had the party crossed the threshold to enter parliament”.

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Before the September vote, “and after failing to convince leaders of the right-wing Yamina party to include Otzma Yehudit in their alliance, Netanyahu waged an aggressive campaign against Otzma.”

According to the Times of Israel, Ben Gvir has claimed that he has been offered various incentives to drop out, including “promises of tempting jobs in influential bodies, ministerial positions and even an ambassadorship, all of which he rejected”.

The news site added that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “was heavily criticised at home and abroad in February 2019 after engineering a deal for Otzma Yehudit to join two other right-wing factions, a pact which almost saw Ben Gvir enter the Knesset in the April election last year”.

The report explained that the party is “made up of followers of late extremist rabbi Meir Kahane”, and “supports encouraging emigration of non-Jews from Israel and expelling Palestinians” – including citizens of Israel – “who refuse to declare loyalty to Israel and accept diminished status in an expanded Jewish state whose sovereignty extends throughout the West Bank”.

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