Ben Gvir Won’t Have Seat in Likud-Led Coalition

YERUSHALAYIM -
Itamar Ben Gvir, of the Otzma Yehudit party. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Likud and New Hope parties ruled out a coalition post for Itamar Ben Gvir, the far-right candidate who is running for the Knesset with Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism party.

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, a longtime ally of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu‏‏, said Ben Gvir, a disciple of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, was an “unacceptable” candidate for a Likud-led coalition.

This, despite reports last week that Netanyahu brokered a merger between Ben Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit party and Religious Zionism party, which gave him the no. 3 slot on its electoral list. Two polls on Friday showed Religious Zionism winning 4-5 seats, thus putting Ben Gvir in the next Knesset after the March 23 elections.

“I do not see myself sitting in government with Ben Gvir. I oppose this and it is also unrealistic,” Steinitz told the Kan public broadcaster.

Asked if he was ruling out any cooperation with Otzma, Steinitz said, “Ben Gvir is unacceptable because of his positions and statements.”

New Hope founder Gideon Saar said much the same.

“Ben Gvir will not sit in my coalition,” Sa’ar said in a Channel 12 news interview. “This is a man who put up a picture in his living room of someone who murdered 29 people at prayer. Netanyahu has reached the point where that’s his way to muster a coalition — with extremists like Ben Gvir.”

Ben Gvir was condemned in the 2020 election for, among others things, having a portrait of Baruch Goldstein hanging in his living room. Goldstein in 1994 murdered 29 Muslim worshipers at the Maaras Hamachpelah. Ben Gvir subsequently said he had taken down the portrait.