Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party is responsible for leaking a controversial 2011 video of Jewish Home party candidate Jeremy Gimpel speaking of a “blown up” Dome of the Rock and the construction of a third Jewish temple in Jerusalem, Gimpel’s colleague in Jewish Home, MK Uri Orbach, asserted on Sunday.
The video, which was leaked by Channel 2 on Friday, shows US-born Gimpel, during an address to a Florida church before he was a Knesset candidate, apparently relishing the idea that the Dome of the Rock could be blown up and replaced by a Jewish temple. Its release this weekend caused an outcry and was denounced by the center-left, in particular by Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party, which submitted a petition demanding that Gimpel’s candidacy be banned on grounds of incitement.
“What a man said in Florida a year and a half ago… doesn’t interest me,” Orbach, who’s sixth on the Jewish Home party’s Knesset slate, told Channel 10 on Sunday, dismissing allegations that his party harbored secret ambitions to destroy the Dome of the Rock. “The party conducts itself, unlike most lists, in a democratic fashion. We, the politicians, determine our course via political institutions.”
Gimpel later said that he was “joking” and that his remarks were taken out of context, and urged voters to watch the entire video of the address.
Likud-Beytenu, the joint list of Likud and Yisrael Beytenu, which Orbach blamed for leaking the footage, has been steadily bleeding votes to Jewish Home. According to recent polls, Jewish Home, which is led by high-tech entrepreneur-turned politician Naftali Bennett, a former aide of Netanyahu’s, is expected to become Israel’s third-largest party, after Likud-Beytenu and Labor, in Tuesday’s election.
The Jewish Home on Saturday also came under attack from Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the 92-year-old spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, who called the national religious party a “party of goyim” for their support of easier conversion to Judaism in Israel.
Orbach brushed aside that criticism as well, charging that Yosef was being fed lies by the leaders of Shas.
“Rabbi Ovadia doesn’t read the paper; he’s fed by the three bandits, Shas’s top three” — Interior Minister Eli Yishai, Aryeh Deri and Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Attias, he said.
Concluding that Shas was “feeling the heat” because it, too, was losing votes to Jewish Home, Orbach continued: “Likud accuses us of being too religious, and Shas blames us for being too secular. We don’t need seals of approval for our religiosity and our love of Torah… from Shas.”
Earlier, in what was either a sign of pre-election fatigue or of Bennett’s growing swagger, the leader of the Jewish Home party had a very succinct reaction to an assertion by Livni that she would not join a government with him.
“OK,” Bennett wrote on Facebook.