The Blue and White party formally joined the campaign to stop Otzma Yehudit from running for the Knesset, announcing that it will take part in a petition filed by Meretz and Labor to the Central Elections Committee, The Times of Israel reported on Tuesday.
“The decision is a result of Yesh Atid’s commitment to do everything in its power to prevent the entry of [Rabbi Meir] Kahane’s followers into the Knesset,” the Yesh Atid faction of the party, which joined the petition on its own earlier in the day, said in a statement.
Otzma Yehudit responded by saying that this further exposes Blue and White as a left-wing party.
“It appears that today [Benny] Gantz is trying to form a government on the spokesmen of terrorists,” attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir of Otzma Yehudit said, referring to Arab MKs in far-left parties. “It won’t help them! The union of the right-wing parties will be the surprise of the elections.”
Also on Tuesday, MK Stav Shaffir (Labor) invited New Right leader Naftali Bennett to sign a petition written by her against Otzma Yehudit, after Bennett said the extreme right-wing group “was not fit to be in the Knesset.”
“Education Minister Bennett made a very important statement. Now we have to back up with deeds. Will he join me in the petition to disqualify Ben Ari and Kahane? It is not a question of right or left, but of political courage, to put democracy and the security of Israel above personal interest. This will an important educational act. Let us do this together,” Shaffir tweeted.
Later in the day, Bennett clarified his position, saying that his distaste for Otzma Yehudit will not lead him to side with the move to ban them from the Knesset:
“After political officials jumped on my words this morning, I will clarify in the clearest way possible: There is a huge ideological gap between my views and those of Otzma Yehudit. That’s a fact. At the same time, I will not allow the right to enter the arena with hands tied,” Bennett said.
“We will not be the suckers of the left — which wants to topple a right-wing government, gallop ahead to a Palestinian state and expel thousands of Jews from their homes. I reject the demand of the left to prevent representatives of Otzma Yehudit from running for the Knesset while relying on Arab parties that undermine the existence of the state.”
Attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir of Otzma Yehudit responded, “Minister Bennett should do a thorough investigation before he decides to attack anyone who does not cave or stutter on issues of the Land of Israel. Minister Bennett was a partner in two governments during whose terms terrorists were released, Jewish settlements — including Amona and Netiv Ha’avot — were destroyed, and the south was abandoned to the fire of hundreds of Hamas rockets and lowly kite terror without a response,” according to Arutz Sheva.
Meanwhile, on a parallel legal front, National-Religious Rabbi Benny Lau refused Otzma Knesset candidate Itamar Ben-Gvir’s demand for an apology, risking a 100,000 shekel libel suit for comparing his party to the Nazis.
Rabbi Lau denied accusing the Kahane disciples of being Nazis, though he did not deny comparing their views to the Nazi Nuremberg laws, which he did do.
Jewish Home leader Rabbi Rafi Peretz, now an electoral partner of the Otzma leaders, told Kan radio: “I was shocked to hear a Rabbi in Israel compare the views of our candidates to Nazism.”
Bnei Akiva head Rabbi Chaim Druckman rejected the criticism, saying: “Even with all the expressions that sound so harshly like Nazism,[such] shocking expressions. After all, it’s been discussed that it’s forbidden to use anything belonging to the Holocaust. We demand of the youth that they not call a policeman and a soldier ‘Nazi.’ How can one say that voting for Jewish Home is to vote for Nazism? It is a remark lacking all responsibility. There aren’t enough words in my mouth to condemn this expression.
“It’s hard for me to believe that Rabbi Benny Lau said such things; he himself is the son of a Holocaust survivor, and I respect and love him, but I refer to the things that were published in his name, and them I denounce, there can be no such thing. Jews are not Nazis. Jews are Jews even if their worldview is different from mine. I must go against the words that were said, but to say this about them: It’s not right and it’s not moral.”
Updated Tuesday, February 26, 2019 at 2:55 pm more info