Aug 31, 2022 - World

Netanyahu unites Jewish supremacist parties ahead of November's election

Itamar Ben-Gvir
Itamar Ben-Gvir. Photo: Ilia Yefimovich/picture alliance via Getty Images

Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu in recent days united two radical right-wing Jewish supremacist parties as part of his effort to consolidate his bloc and win the November election.

Why it matters: Netanyahu needs to win a 61-seat majority in the Knesset to form a coalition that could pass laws and take steps to stop his corruption trial.

Driving the news: Netanyahu last Friday invited the leaders of the Religious Zionism party and the Jewish Power party for separate meetings at a private house in the upscale town of Caesarea to close a deal on a power-sharing agreement and run in the elections together.

  • Jewish Power Party leader Itamar Ben-Gvir, who was convicted in 2007 of supporting a terror organization and inciting racism, has said his aim is to establish a new ministry for encouraging “enemies” and people who are “disloyal” to the state to leave Israel.
  • Religious Zionism party leader Bezalel Smotrich, who has a history of making racist remarks, has said the murder of a Palestinian family by Jewish settlers was not terrorism, and he organized an anti-gay parade in Jerusalem, which he called “the beast parade."

Between the lines: This is the third time Netanyahu has actively worked to ensure Ben-Gvir and Smotrich are elected.

  • The first time was in the February 2019 election. His move then was seen by many as the equivalent of a U.S. president cutting a political deal with David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader.
  • Netanyahu did it again ahead of the March 2021 election.

State of play: Netanyahu’s efforts to legitimize Ben-Gvir’s openly racist and xenophobic fringe party has led to a surge in the Jewish Power's popularity. Israeli media have also given Ben-Gvir unlimited air time to talk about his views.

  • The elections are still two months away, but several polls project Netanyahu’s bloc could get to 61 seats.
  • If Netanyahu succeeds, Ben-Gvir and Smotrich would become senior ministers, most likely in the Security Cabinet.
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