(February 20, 2019 / JNS) The religious Zionist Jewish Home and National Union parties have agreed to run with the staunch nationalist Otzma Yehudit Party in an effort to form a strong right-wing bloc for the upcoming national elections in April.
The agreement will create a “technical bloc,” in which Jewish Home and National Union operate as a joint faction, and Otzma joins in as an independent party with fifth and eighth places on the list.
Otzma was not expected to reach the 3.25 percent electoral threshold on its own, but votes for the party will now be shared with Jewish Home and National Union, and are expected to draw another two or three seats for the faction.
The deal took months to seal, partially because Otzma Knesset member Michael Ben-Ari, activist Baruch Marzel, right-wing attorney activist Itamar Ben-Gvir and Benzi Gopstein—head of Lehava, an anti-assimilation organization—are all former students of the late extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane, who was based in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Kahane founded the Jewish Defense League in the United States, which was tainted by violence. After he immigrated to Israel, he advocated for the expulsion of all Arabs.
On top of the new agreement, Shas leader Eli Yishai will run in a top slot with the group on the Jewish Home list in an attempt to bring votes from the Sephardic religious community.
In a deal made with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, when Yishai passes the threshold, the prime minister will give him a ministry position, at which point Yishai will retain the position, resign from the Knesset, and the next person on the bloc list will take his spot.
“For the sake of the Land of Israel and the many people in the public who have called for unity on the right so that, God forbid, a left-wing government will not be established, the Otzma Yehudit faction has decided to accept a joint list offer from the Jewish Home and National Union, taking the fifth and eighth spots, despite the fact that based on all data and in most recent polls, Otzma was guaranteed to bring at least four seats,” said Otzma in a statement. “But when the choice is the Land of Israel or our own honor, we choose the Land, and the establishment of a right-wing government.”
However, Yifat Ehrlich, the Bayit Yehudi list member who will now be No. 7 on the joint list, argued that the Jewish Home Party central committee may oppose a merger with Otzma.