Pro-cannabis; also backs encouraging Arab Israelis to leave

Feiglin says no preference between Gantz and Netanyahu for next PM

Ex-Likud MK, who heads ultra-nationalist libertarian Zehut that could emerge as kingmaker, says he’d join any government that will meet his demands

Zehut party leader Moshe Feiglin attends a party conference in Tel Aviv on February 28, 2017. (Flash90)
Zehut party leader Moshe Feiglin attends a party conference in Tel Aviv on February 28, 2017. (Flash90)

The leader of the ultra-nationalist libertarian Zehut party Moshe Feiglin said Friday that he does not have a preference between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main election rival Benny Gantz as Israel’s next premier.

“I am not motivated by anger or vindictiveness, neither Gantz nor Netanyahu interest me, he told Radio 103FM, indicating that he was willing to work with either in a future government.

“If they offer [something] they’ll get [something] in return,” he said in the interview. “If they don’t offer anything they won’t get anything in return.”

“What interests me is the children,” he added.

Feiglin, who got pushed out of the ruling Likud party four years ago for his extreme right-wing positions, has taken the campaign by storm, putting cannabis high on the national agenda and forcing the frontrunners to take a stand on the issue. He’s also one of the few party leaders to refrain from endorsing either Netanyahu or Gantz.

If asked to join the next government, Feiglin said he would pursue the finance and education portfolios, and told the radio station he would join a coalition with “whoever will allow me to advance the party platform in the widest and most significant way possible.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the David’s Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem, on March 20, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

His Zehut party has a real shot of winning seats in the Knesset and could even emerge as a kingmaker in a tightly contested race for prime minister. Currently enjoying a surge of support largely due to his pro-cannabis platform, Feiglin is also pushing a radical libertarian policy package with a religious and nationalist twist.

The political manifesto of Feiglin’s Zehut — Hebrew for identity — includes canceling signed agreements with the Palestinians, making Arab Israeli citizens pass a loyalty test and offering financial incentives to them to emigrate elsewhere if they refuse to accept Jewish sovereignty over the land.

He has also spoken out against women, gays and Reform Jews. In 1995, shortly before Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, he orchestrated raucous protests against the Oslo Peace accords. The Supreme Court later sentenced him to six months in prison for sedition against the state, which was later commuted to community service.

During his campaign, Feiglin has downplayed his past as an ultra-nationalist activist and insists he is currently focused on civic issues alone.

The most recent poll has his Zehut party taking seven Knesset seats in next month’s election, along with the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism, the Union of Right-Wing Parties and the Arab Israeli Hadash-Ta’al party.

Blue and White chief Benny Gantz during a campaign event on March 18, 2019. (Courtesy: Blue and White)

The Channel 13 poll published Thursday showed Netanyahu’s Likud catching up to Gantz’s Blue and White, with both slated to win 30 seats.

Aside from a rare exception earlier this month, Blue and White has consistently been ahead of Likud in polls conducted by various Israeli media outlets since Gantz formed the party in February.

But Gantz has been losing ground following reports earlier this month that his cellphone was hacked by the Iranians.

Likud has tried to use the hack, which Gantz was informed about last year by Israeli security officials, to show he is unfit to lead the country. Gantz has charged that the leak of the breach to the media was politically motivated.

Hapoel Beersheba soccer team owner Alona Barkat gives a press conference in Beersheba, on February 7, 2019. (Flash90)

This week, Likud released a series of campaign spots in which it sought to portray Gantz as mentally unstable. The campaign ad drew condemnation from Gantz’s party as well as from Israel’s disability commissioner, who took issue with its portrayal of the aspiring prime minister as mentally ill.

On Friday, number three on the New Right’s Knesset list Alona Barkat said her party firmly supported Netanyahu as prime minister over Gantz. In a Channel 12 interview, Barkat said that “Gantz and [co-party leader] Lapid are left. Our choice for prime minister is Netanyahu.”

AP contributed to this report

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