Israel’s main ultra-right parties, Otzma Yehudit and Religious Zionism, reportedly reached an agreement to form a new list in the November elections. According to the agreement, Ben-Gvir, known for inciting far-right riots in occupied Jerusalem, and hate preacher, Bezalel Smotrich, will both co-head the list.
According to polls cited by the Haaretz newspaper, the ultra-right parties may gain as many as ten seats through the coalition that will include “a number of moderately religious Jews, distinct from ultra-Orthodoxy.”
The move is described as an attempt by the far-right settlement movement, whose base and leadership are dominated by Ashkenazi Jews, to appeal to a wider audience in the next elections.
Ashkenazi Jews are immigrants from Europe and make up the majority of the country’s population. Nearly every one of Israel’s leaders is Ashkenazi in origin, including the country’s longest serving Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Polls show that a Netanyahu-led bloc could form the next government with 61 seats.
Though Israel’s ultra-right and religious extremists are a minority force in the Knesset, their more secularist and nationalist opponents who dominate the country’s politics are, more or less, in complete agreement over their views on Palestine.
Netanyahu, for example, despite being a far-right figure, has been the longest serving prime minister. The Likud leader is ideologically opposed to the self-determination of non-Jews in historic Palestine and is also an advocate of illegal Jewish only settlements in the occupied territories. Critics often point out that what counts as centrist in Israel is in fact hard-right ethno-nationalists in every other country.