Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party signed on Wednesday, February 10, a surplus vote agreement with the far-right and racist Religious Zionism bloc, which could help the Likud gain seats in the upcoming March 23 election. To get the racist party to sign the agreement, the Likud had to commit to take steps to “maintain the land of Israel and strengthen the state’s Jewish identity” In the next government that Netanyahu forms.
Last week, Netanyahu pushed far-right MK Bezalel Smotrich to form a bloc with Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Strength) to minimize the chances that the tens of thousands of extreme right-wing votes the two parties would garner if running separately will not fall below the electoral threshold of 3.25% of all valid votes. Otzma Yehudit had already previously merged with anti-LGBT and messianic party Noam. Otzma Yehudit was established by students of Rabbi Meir Kahane, who was banned from running for the Knesset in 1988 due to his relentless incitement to racism against Arabs. Its leader today is Itamar Ben-Gvir.
Hadash MKs blasted Netanyahu for agreeing to the deal, singling out Ben-Gvir’s support for Kahane. They also recalled that until recently Ben-Gvir had a picture of Hebron Mosque Massacre murderer Baruch Goldstein hanging in his home. “Netanyahu signed a vote sharing agreement with the party of Baruch Goldstein and Ben-Gvir,” MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List) wrote on Twitter. “He is trying to obtain immunity for bribery in return for supporting open racism,” a reference to Netanyahu’s goal of passing legislation in the next Knesset that would exempt the serving prime minister from being tried.
Labor leader MK Merav Michaeli wrote that the deal proved that the choice on Election Day is between continuing the path that led to the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and would lead to racism and immunity, or voting for Rabin’s path and his party. Meretz faction head MK Tamar Zandberg noted that former Likud leader and Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir would get up and leave the Knesset plenum when Kahane addressed the forum. She said the Likud had reached a moral low by helping Ben-Gvir enter the Knesset. In the interview with Channel 20, Netanyahu accused the Left and the media of trying to divide the Right.
Surplus-vote sharing agreements, like the one Likud signed with the Religious Zionist bloc, enable surplus votes for one party beyond what is needed for a mandate to move to another party and not be wasted. The method in calculating who gets the surplus votes is called the Bader-Ofer Law. In the far right, Yamina head Naftali Bennett and New Hope chairman Gideon Sa’ar signed a surplus-vote sharing agreement between their two parties on January 4. The agreement with the Likud will come into play only if the Religious Zionist Party passes the electoral threshold.
Related: Posts making reference to Itamar Ben-Gvir