Prime Minister and leader of the Likud, Benjamin Netanyahu, played an active role in encouraging the far-right clerical HaBayit HaYehudi (Jewish Home) party to form an electoral alliance with the Kahanist party, Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power), as he did in the previous two elections this year. The merger was announced Friday morning by HaBayit HaYehudi leader and Education Minister Rafi Peretz, a former brigadier-general in the Israeli army, and Otzma Yehudit head and settler in Hebron, Itamar Ben Gvir.
The move will almost certainly bring racist anti-Arab extremists from Otzma Yehudit back to the Knesset plenum, as being merged with HaBayit HaYehudi they are virtually assured to pass the electoral threshold.
Netanyahu phoned Peretz on Friday, December 20, to offer his congratulations for the deal with Otzma Yehudit. Netanyahu has pushed over the past year smaller right-wing parties to band together in order to increase the amount of seats his potential right-wing allies get and keep independent factions that will not pass the Knesset threshold from drawing votes away. Netanyahu’s engineering last February, towards the April 2019 elections for the 21st Knesset, of a merger between HaBayit HaYehudi-National Union and Otzma Yehudit drew vociferous outrage in Israel and abroad, including from traditional allies such as the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, which rarely criticizes Israeli politicians.
Otzma Yehudit’s leadership is made up of disciples of the racist American-born Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose Jewish supremacist Kach party was banned under Israeli law for incitement to racism and later declared a terrorist group.
A column in pro-Netanyahu tabloid Israel Hayom Sunday praised Friday’s merger as a “necessary step” for right-wing victory. Ben Gvir stood by his merger with the HaBayit HaYehudi in a Channel 12 interview on Saturday evening, saying the move would ensure that the Netanyahu-led right-wing-messianic bloc would receive 61 seats and be able to form a government.