October 4, 2022

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Netanyahu Meets Smotrich and Ben Gvir for Pressing Far-Right Merger

3 min read

On Friday, opposition leader and head of the Likud party, Benjamin Netanyahu invited far-right MKs Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir for a meeting.

This move was part of his efforts to convince the Religious Zionism and Otzma Yehudit parties to run in the November 1st elections on a joint ticket.

Reports indicated that MK Yariv Levin of the Likud party, who is regarded as the right-hand man of Netanyahu in the Knesset, was also going to participate in the meeting at the home of the party leader.

While the media widely reported the meeting, none of the sides gave any confirmation about it.

Netanyahu’s efforts

The former prime minister has been working on convincing the far-right parties to join hands. He has warned that both can only enter the Knesset if they run together and prevent votes getting wasted.

The two factors are expected to support his bid to campaign to become prime minister once more and he would need every little support in order to obtain a majority in the Knesset.

On Wednesday, polls had showed that even if Otzma Yehudit party of Ben Gvir does not merge its Knesset slates with the Religious Zionism party, the extremist firebrand will still do fine.

As a matter of fact, the far-right party soared in the polls to become one of the largest parties in the nation. The party is expected to win eight or nine seats, which is quite stunning.

This is because the hardline stance taken by Ben Gvir was thought of outside the mainstream politics of Israel.

Political deadlock

A potential blow for chances of Netanyahu getting the premiership back were survey results that showed Religious Zionism not able to meet the threshold unless it merges with Otzma Yehudit.

There was another survey that showed the party barely squeaking in. Overall, the results of the surveys showed that no camp would have the support required for breaking the political deadlock in Israel.

It is because of this deadlock that the country is facing its fifth round of elections in less than four years. While the polls don’t offer accurate results, they do give insights into the public opinion.

Poll results

The latest results showed that the Otzma Yehudit party would score nine seats, while Smotrich’s Religious Zionism would not be able to clear the electoral threshold.

Thus, Netanyahu would only be able to land 58 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, which means he would not be able to get the majority he needs.

Last year’s elections had seen Ben Gvir and Smotrich run on a shared ticket. However, negotiations for doing the same in the November elections fell through.

The former accused the latter of not making concessions and negotiating in bad faith. Ben Gvir said on Wednesday that he was willing to run together, but both parties should be equally represented.

Since Netanyahu is aware of the harmful results if the two run separately, he encouraged both the parties publicly to not take such a risk.

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