Likud said to give up on convincing far-right party to quit elections
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Likud said to give up on convincing far-right party to quit elections

Kan report says Otzma Yehudit spurned various offers by ruling party, won’t drop out of race despite likelihood it will fail to enter Knesset

Otzma Yehudit chairman Itamar Ben Gvir at the entrance to the Central Elections Committee in the Knesset, January 15, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Otzma Yehudit chairman Itamar Ben Gvir at the entrance to the Central Elections Committee in the Knesset, January 15, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party has given up on attempts to persuade Itamar Ben Gvir, the leader of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, to withdraw from the election race, according to senior sources within the party cited by the Kan public broadcaster Tuesday.

According to the report, Likud officials have said all the various offers presented to Ben Gvir have been rejected, and that chances of convincing him are nil.

All recent polling has shown Otzma Yehudit failing to win enough support to clear the 3.25 percent electoral threshold in next week’s election, and Likud has been warning of right-wing votes being wasted.

Ben Gvir has repeatedly vowed to remain in the race despite warnings from right-wing leaders that he has no chance of entering the Knesset.

He has claimed that his party has a better chance of making it into the Knesset than the right-wing bloc has at winning 61 seats without the support of his Kahanist-inspired faction.

Despite its extremist views, Otzma Yehudit still drew over 80,000 votes in September elections, which would have equaled about two Knesset seats had the party crossed the threshold to enter parliament.

Likud and other right-wing factions fear a repeat in next week’s national vote if Ben Gvir stays in the race.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu listens to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, January 30, 2020. (Maxim Shemetov/Pool Photo via AP)

Ben Gvir has claimed that overtures for him to drop out included promises of tempting jobs in influential bodies, ministerial positions and even an ambassadorship, all of which he rejected.

Netanyahu was heavily criticized at home and abroad in February 2019 after engineering a deal for Otzma Yehudit to join two other right-wing factions, a pact which almost saw Ben Gvir enter the Knesset in the April election last year.

The party is made up of followers of late extremist rabbi Meir Kahane. It supports encouraging emigration of non-Jews from Israel and expelling Palestinians and Israeli Arabs who refuse to declare loyalty to Israel and accept diminished status in an expanded Jewish state whose sovereignty extends throughout the West Bank. Ben Gvir’s former running mate, ex-MK Michael Ben-Ari, was disqualified from running for the Knesset last year over racism accusations.

Before the September elections, and after failing to convince leaders of the right-wing Yamina party to include Otzma Yehudit in their alliance, Netanyahu waged an aggressive campaign against Otzma.

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