Coalition whip MK Miki Zohar, a senior member of Likud, on Monday accused former party member Ze’ev Elkin, who left Likud to join a rival party, of being a racist, accusing him of seeking out a party for “white people.”
Elkin responded that Zohar was displaying exactly the kind of behavior that pushed him to leave Likud and join New Hope, a party recently established by another former Likud lawmaker, Gideon Sa’ar.
Elkin, a former cabinet minister, had been known to be close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as his former coalition whip, his translator in dealings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and a trusted confidant.
In a dramatic indictment of the Israeli leader last month, Elkin announced his surprise decision to quit Likud and join forces with Sa’ar, a longtime Netanyahu nemesis who bolted Likud and resigned from the Knesset two weeks earlier to form his own party. In his remarks, Elkin cited his lost faith in a prime minister he accused of increasingly placing his personal interests ahead of the country’s.
“Elkin is arrogant and a racist. It is good that he has left Likud,” Zohar tweeted and accused Elkin of telling the media in interviews that Likud had become “Zohar’s party.”
“It seems he left Likud because it’s no longer the white [people’s] party that he prefers,” wrote Zohar, whose father emigrated from Morocco and mother from Tunisia.
“Miki, you have given an example of what I was talking about: It is possible to have a respectful argument without crude slurs,” Elkin tweeted in response. “You can continue to incite; we will unite.”
Replying to Elkin, Zohar wrote, “You are adopting the leftist narrative. The truth is that I never thought you would turn into what you have become. You are one of the biggest disappointments to me and Likud.”
Israel is heading to its fourth national election in two years on March 23, after the unity government led by Netanyahu collapsed last month over a failure to pass a national budget.
Elkin is one of four Likud lawmakers to defect to Sa’ar’s fledgling party — after MKs Yifat Shasha-Biton, Michal Shir, and MK Sharren Haskel — which current polls suggest would be the second-largest in the Knesset after the elections.