With the poor showing of the Yemina party at the polls, and the no-show of Otzma Yehudit in the final results, the knives were out Wednesday morning as both parties sought to deflect blame for their failure on forces other than themselves. For Itamar Ben-Gvir, those forces were a perceived combined attack on his Otzma party by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the Yemina party.
“When we started the campaign, we said there could not be a rightwing government without Otzma, and we repeated this over and over. And it turned out we were right,” Ben-Gvir told Reshet Bet, in one of the numerous interviews he gave Wednesday. “Am I disappointed over the results? I certainly am. I wish I could say that the final results will be different, but we have to be realistic.”
After some 90% of the votes were counted, Otzma was listed in unofficial results with less than 2% of the vote – far less than the 3.25% needed for Knesset representation. The reason? “The arrogance of those who tried to make a high-tech style ‘exit’ in the Religious Zionist camp,” he said, referring to Yemina leaders Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked. “They did everything they could to undermine us.” Also at fault was Netanyahu, “who stopped at nothing to convince people not to vote for us.”
Transportation Minister and Yemina MK Betzalel Smotrich took a different view. “For the fifth time Ben-Gvir has wrecked votes for the right. We lost tens of thousands of votes. Unlike in his foolish forecasts, Otzma came nowhere near to even half the electoral threshold. Now he is running around giving interviews about how he was victimized. He refuses to take any responsibility, to think about how his actions contributed to the situation, to how the results will harm all of us. Everyone is to blame except for him. In a normal world this man would be ashamed to show his face in public,” Smotrich said.