Smotrich Breaks Silence on Otzma Yehudit Deal

Right-wing party alliance member Bezalel Smotrich in November, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

After days of no comment, National Union chairman Bezalel Smotrich said on Tuesday that he stands unalterably opposed to any alliance with the far-right Otzmah Yehudit.

In a video statement, Smotrich said that “When it comes to the fate of the nation, I cannot at any cost join a list where there is doubt whether it will even pass the electoral threshold.” A Channel 12 poll on Monday predicted—with the usual margin of error—that the alliance would just clear the electoral threshold for 4 Knesset seats.

On December 20, Jewish Home chairman Rabbi Rafi Peretz and Otzma head Itamar Ben-Gvir agreed to run together. The news was not welcomed at National Union nor among much of Jewish Home, neither of which had been consulted beforehand.

The Jewish Home-Otzma Yehudit agreement reserved the 2nd, 5th, and 8th slots for National Union candidates, but with Smotrich regarded as currently the most popular of the three leaders, it was thought to be a less than generous apportionment.

“It is not yet too late to start a democratic process that will renew the trust of the religious-Zionist community in the party,” Smotrich said.

With the deadline to submit party lists only two weeks away, Smotrich conceded that it was too late to hold open primaries, but he suggested other ways out: either a survey in which national religious voters could indicate their preferences, or a merger of the National Union and Jewish Home central committees, which would then revamp the united party’s slate.

“I’m not asking for the first spot, nor the second or third. I’m not even asking for a realistic spot [on the united slate],” Smotrich claimed. “All I ask for and demand is that we receive a mandate from the public.