Hours before deadline, far-right fringe parties walk back merger
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Hours before deadline, far-right fringe parties walk back merger

Otzma Yehudit and Noam go their separate ways after a disagreement regarding the former’s insistence on including a non-religious candidate

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

The Otzma Yehudit party's Michael Ben Ari (L) and Itamar Ben Gvir attend the Central Elections Committee for the 21st Knesset elections during a session to discuss a petition to disqualify them from running in the elections, at the Knesset, March 6, 2019 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
The Otzma Yehudit party's Michael Ben Ari (L) and Itamar Ben Gvir attend the Central Elections Committee for the 21st Knesset elections during a session to discuss a petition to disqualify them from running in the elections, at the Knesset, March 6, 2019 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

The far-right Otzma Yehudit and Noam parties announced on Thursday that they would be breaking off their merger, just hours before the deadline for factions to file their slates of candidates.

The decision was made jointly in light of a disagreement regarding the inclusion of a non-religious candidate on their unified slate, a statement from the Noam party said, claiming that Otzma Yehudit was pushing for a non-yarmulke-wearing candidate to be added.

Spokesmen for both parties said that the disagreement was one of principle rather than practice, and was not over a particular candidate.

The announcement came hours before the 10 p.m. Thursday deadline for parties to submit their lists approached, and with leaders of the United Right party continuing to call on Otzma Yehudit to accept their offer of the 8th and 13th spots on their slate, which the far-right faction has thus far refused.

Hebrew media reported Thursday that former Likud MK Oren Hazan — a scandal-ridden lawmaker who went on to form his own party and got just 0.06 percent of the vote in the April elections — was in negotiations to join Otzma Yehudit. Hazan is non-religious, but it wasn’t immediately clear if the Noam statement was prompted by his floated candidacy.

Less than 24 hours earlier, the two parties announced that they had agreed on terms for a joint run.

Noam party highway billboards outside Tel Aviv that read “Israel chooses to be normal.” (Courtesy)

Under the agreement, the two parties were to run as a “technical bloc” rather than as a united faction, with the top spot on the joint slate going to Otzma Yehudit’s Itamar Ben Gvir. The second and third spots would go to representatives of Noam, while Otzma Yehudit member Baruch Marzel would be placed fourth.

A Channel 12 poll aired Tuesday said Otzma Yehudit and Noam would receive 1.2 percent and 0.3%, respectively, of the vote, which combined would fall well short of the 3.25% needed to enter the Knesset.

Otzma Yehudit, whose leaders are self-described disciples of the late extremist rabbi Meir Kahane, and Noam, which is campaigning on combating LGBT acceptance, first announced Sunday they had agreed to a joint run.

Otzma Yehudit ran in the Union of Right-Wing Parties (which last week teamed up with New Right to form the United Right) in the last election in April as part of an alliance brokered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but split off over what it said was URWP’s failure to honor the terms of their electoral pact.

Netanyahu has once again been pressing URWP and the rest of the United Right to take in Otzma Yehudit, saying right-wing votes would be wasted if the latter fails to enter the Knesset.

In the previous election, Likud agreed to place one URWP MK on its slate as part of URWP’s merger agreement with Otzma Yehudit.

Ben Gvir declared that if United Right did not improve its offer to Otzma Yehudit by 8 p.m., his party would be filing its slate alone.

Separately on Thursday, Army Radio reported that Noam representatives visited the offices of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party and met one of the party leaders, MK Moshe Gafni. According to reports, Noam could withdraw its slate and declare its support for UTJ.

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