Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu hit back Motzoei Shabbos against critics of his efforts to encourage unification of rightwing parties by calling them “hypocrites. They are using the double standard of the left,” he said in a statement.
The trigger for Netanyahu’s comments was a statement by AIPAC in support of the American Jewish Committee (AJC)’s criticism of Netanyahu. The group said in a statement that it “does not normally comment on political parties and candidates during an election. But with the announcement that Otzma Yehudit (“Jewish Power”), a new political party formed by longtime followers of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, is now seeking election to the Knesset, we feel compelled to speak out.
“The views of Otzma Yehudit are reprehensible,” the statement said. “They do not reflect the core values that are the very foundation of the State of Israel. The party might conceivably gain enough votes to enter the next Knesset, and potentially even become part of the governing coalition. Historically, the views of extremist parties, reflecting the extreme left or the extreme right, have been firmly rejected by mainstream parties, even if the electoral process of Israel’s robust democracy has enabled their presence, however small, in the Knesset.”
After a series of meetings with Netanyahu, the heads of Jewish Home and National Union, Rafi Peretz and Betzalel Smotrich, agreed to absorb Otzma Yehudit into a single party, called the United Right List. Otzma Yehudit is made up of Michael Ben-Ari, who is a former MK, and Itamar Ben-Gvir, an attorney who has argued before the High Court many times.
In his statement, Netanyahu slammed critics for failing to condemn the left for its alliance with Arab parties. “They condemn the right for merging in order to create a technical bloc, at the same that the left is doing the exact same thing with radical Islamists,” the prime minister said. “In 1999, Ehud Barak participated in a rally with the inciting Islamist Ra’ad Salah, and representatives of Meretz and Labor voted to keep the spy Azmi Bishara in the Knesset. And Yitzchak Herzog carried out a vote-exchange agreement with the United Arab List, and said that Arab MKs belong in the government. They reject a unification of the rightwing parties but are in favor of bringing anti-Israel spies guilty of incitement into the Knesset. It’s absurd.”
In its own statement, Otzma Yehudit said, “We call on members of AIPAC to take the desired action and come home to the Land of Israel before they intervene in the elections. When they get here they can be partners in deciding the important issues of the nation living in the Land, and we will be happy to have their input on those decisions, together with all citizens of Israel. Meanwhile, the hypocrisy of AIPAC screams to the heavens. We have never heard AIPAC condemn with such ferocity the election campaign of Hanin Zoabi and Ahmed Tibi for the Knesset.”
The reason AIPAC is condemning them, the party said, is that “they want the left to lead Israel, and would be happy at the prospect of a government that will give away land and give weapons to the enemy. In the end it is not the AIPAC members who will pay the price in terror attacks, but Israelis.”