Otzma Yehudit head Itamar Ben-Gvir has announced his intention to run for the Knesset again – but is willing to join in with other parties on the religious right, he said in an interview Sunday. Speaking to Galey Yisrael radio, Ben-Gvir said that he hoped things would be different in this, the third election campaign in a year, and that other parties would not strike down the idea of working with him in advance.
In both the April and September elections, Otzma Yehudit ran separately from the main religious right party – in April, Jewish Home, and in September, Yemina. Ben-Gvir said that it was due to “politics” and demands by leaders of the religious right parties to ensure their spots at the top of any party list. “I am taking advantage of this platform to call on Rabbi Rafi Peretz and Betzalel Smotrich to end the games. We can walk into a room today, in the morning, and come out at night with a deal or an agreement on primaries, whatever they want. I am even willing to arbitrate between them, as I have done many times in the past.”
Among the problems that prevented Otzma from merging with the main right-wing party was placement of Ben-Gvir and other candidates on the list; in September, the party offered him the eighth slot, which was considered “unrealistic.” Ben-Gvir said he deserved a better spot. “If in the April elections we garnered 150,000 votes and in the September elections 84,000, that would mean I should get the top slot, and the fourth slot. That is, if we were politicians. But we are not, we want to win and we want the others on the right to win. I hope that the superiority that the other party displayed – claiming Otzma would lose votes – will not repeat itself.”
Ben-Gvir added that he was willing to join a single large religious right party, despite the fact that he agreed with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who recommended two parties to the right of the Likud.
“A single party will bring complaints that it contains elements that are not religious enough, or voters who don’t agree with its agenda and lead to a rogue party being established that will lose votes. Otzma running alone would be a split to increase the right-wing’s strength. But all options are good for us. If everyone wants two parties that’s fine, if a single party will bring more votes then I am for it,” he said.
There have been increasing calls on the religious right in recent days to hold a primary and come up with a single list for the upcoming March elections.
Speaking on Kol Chai radio Sunday, pollster Rafi Smith said that victory lay in unity. “The bloc that manages to bring in an additional 100,000 to 150,000 votes will win,” he said. “Last time the right lost 250,000 votes because parties failed to reach the electoral threshold. If Ben-Gvir wants to get into the Knesset he should join the right-wing party.”