Many Israelis are lambasting Benjamin Netanyahu after his decision last week to, in order to fortify his political coalition, facilitate the election one of the nation’s most racist parties that condones violence against Palestinians.
Fearing that the Jewish Home party, a pro-settlement, but clearly not racist, party, was in danger of not getting the 3.25% of the votes needed to gain seats in the Knesset, the PM sought to help them. This party is important to Netanyahu’s coalition. So he engineered a merger between Jewish Home and the racist Otzma party. This all but guarantees that Otzma will have at least one seat in the Knesset. Something that is unacceptable to most Israelis.
The move is not a good look for Netanyahu’s Likud party, as the majority of Israelis reject racism in all forms. Jews have been the target of racism for time immemorial. Otzma Yehudit is associated with the extremist Kahanist movement, outlawed in Israel and considered a terrorist organization by the United States. The party has a history of supporting violence against Palestinians and has called for expelling Arabs from Israel and banning intermarriage between Jews and Arabs.
The party has remained a disreputable fringe group, which is why Israelis are shocked that Netanyahu convinced the Jewish Home party to merge with them. For there part, Netanyahu has promised Jewish home two cabinet positions in the next government, should he win in the April 9 elections.
Zionist rabbi, Benny Lau, assailed the move likening Kahanism to Nazism. He said that “the defilement and destruction of the land serves as a guarantee for the loss of the land.”
Yossi Klein Halevi, a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute, said that bringing this extremist party into mainstream Israeli politics is a desecration of God’s name and of Israel’s reputation.
“We’re in for a major moment of self-reckoning,” he said. “More and more Israelis are going to realize what that means.” Others have said, this move weakens Israel’s moral authority amongst the nations.
Bibi is not a racist and has spent the better part of this year forming coalitions with Arab and Muslim majority countries like Oman and Chad. However, the lengths to which he is willing to go to preserve power are causing many Israelis to reconsider voting for his Likud party. And the new Blue and White party with three former Chiefs of staff (highest position in the IDF) and the very charismatic Yair Lapid, are using this to label Netanyahu as a racist and convince Israelis to vote for them. They are now leading in the polls.
Israel is a true democracy and both Jewish anti-Arab parties and Arab anti-Israel parties have won seats in the Knesset. Netanyahu defended his decision noting that Jewish-majority left-wing groups have made deals with Arab political parties that oppose Israel and incite violence against Jews. Of course, we condemn that as well. He should not be copying them.