Itamar Ben-Gvir, head of the Otzmah Yehudit (“Jewish Strength”) party, issued a statement on Tuesday responding to reports that U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) recently warned that his inclusion in a future Israeli government would harm Washington’s relations with Jerusalem.

“I am deeply concerned by reports that Senator Menendez has aimed incorrect and mistaken criticisms at the millions of Israelis who will soon vote in favor of a center-right government and me personally,” Ben-Gvir said in reference to claims that Menendez urged opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu to not include the far-right lawmaker in a governing coalition following Israel’s Nov. 1 election.

“Everyone knows that the senator is a true friend of Israel and a champion of the U.S.-Israel relationship, and more importantly, he is a man of integrity,” Ben-Gvir continued. “Therefore, my sense is that he would not have made the statements reported had he been correctly informed of the positions I hold, as well as those I do not hold.

“Those who are enemies of a strong Israel seek to besmirch me by calling me and my party racist. But the truth is that we’re anti-racist—we are fighting against the racist anti-Semitism fomenting within the boundaries of our homeland. We believe that Israel needs to uproot terror organizations such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and [Fatah’s] Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, just as the United States defeated al-Qaeda,” said Ben-Gvir.

“In a press conference this week, Benjamin Netanyahu put the critique against me in proportion: ‘I would have expected [the Americans] to warn us of a government that depends on the Muslim Brotherhood [i.e. the Islamist Ra’am party] who support terrorism,'” Ben-Gvir quoted the former prime minister as saying.

Otzmah Yehudit is part of the Religious Zionist alliance of parties that polls show garnering 12-14 mandates in the upcoming national vote, which would likely make it the third-largest faction in the parliament and position Ben-Gvir to receive a senior cabinet posting, if Netanyahu’s right-wing/religious bloc secures a parliamentary majority.

Netanyahu is reported to have pushed hard in order to effect the political union, which has come under widespread criticism due to Ben-Gvir’s extremist past.

On Monday, U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) on Twitter publicly warned Israeli lawmakers against legitimizing Ben-Gvir.


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