The extremist Otzma Yehudit party kicked off its campaign on Thursday for general elections in September, calling for the expulsion of “our enemies” and taking aim at other right-wing religious parties.
Otzma Yehudit, which ran in April’s Knesset elections as part of the Union of Right-Wing Parties, announced last week it would run alone in the upcoming vote after falling out with the other factions in the alliance.
The party is led by self-described disciples of the late extremist rabbi Meir Kahane. Its leader, Michael Ben Ari, was barred from running in the last elections by the High Court of Justice for incitement to racism.
“We want to resettle our enemies in their countries,” Ben Ari said at the campaign launch in Jerusalem, the Haaretz daily reported. “They said they disqualified me for this.”
Ben Ari, who served in the Knesset from 2009 to 2013, called for Israel to retake control of the Gaza Strip following its 2005 pullout and encourage the emigration of Palestinians living there.
“We’ll give them a bottle of mineral water and even a sandwich. We’ll find them countries of origin they can go to. They told us this is racist,” he said.
Kahane supported violently expelling Arabs from Israel and the West Bank and once proposed legislation outlawing inter-ethnic sexual relations. Otzma Yehudit now says it supports encouraging emigration of non-Jews from Israel, and expelling Palestinians and Arab Israelis who refuse to declare loyalty to Israel and accept diminished status in an expanded Jewish state, whose sovereignty extends throughout the West Bank.
At the campaign event, other Otzma Yehudit members bashed Jewish Home leader Rafi Peretz, whose party is the biggest in URWP, after the Ynet news site reported earlier Thursday he would only consider running again with the extremist faction if Baruch Marzel and Bentzi Gopstein are left off the joint list.
Marzel was a former secretary to Kahane when the rabbi’s Kach party entered the Knesset in 1984 prior to being outlawed under anti-terror laws. Gopstein heads Lehava, an anti-miscegenation group that some lawmakers have called to be declared illegal.
“They are vetoing Baruch Marzel and Bentzi Gopstein. And I said to them ‘who are you to disqualify Baruch Marzel? Who are you to disqualify Bentzi Gopstein?'” Itamar Ben Gvir, who was the highest ranked Otzma Yehudit in URWP, said.
Marzel and Gopstein also hit out at Peretz.
“They are scared,” Gopstein said. “[Ben Gvir] wears a suit. I don’t, neither does Baruch but it is okay, we’re all Otzma Yehudit”
Otzma Yehudit’s decision to go alone in September’s elections came after it accused Peretz of not honoring the terms of their pre-election merger.
The tensions come as the various right-wing and far-right parties have been looking to unite into an even broader front for the September elections.
Otzma Yehudit’s union with Jewish Home was orchestrated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an effort to prevent losing right-wing votes if the individual parties failed to cross the Knesset threshold of 3.25%. He promised Jewish Home two ministerial posts in his next government, and gave a Jewish Home member the 28th slot on the Likud Knesset slate.
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