Campaign ad from extremist candidate sparks row between right-wing leaders

A campaign ad from extremist political candidate Itamar Ben Gvir sparks a row between right-wing lawmakers Bezalel Smotrich and Naftali Bennett.

Ben Gvir, from the Otzma Yehudit faction, releases a campaign video on social media that attacks Arab and left-wing lawmakers, as well as Bennett.

Smotrich’s Religious Zionism faction partnered with the extremist-right Kahanist Otzma Yehudit in a deal pushed by Netanyahu ahead of next month’s election.

Smotrich did not release the video, and claimed that he did not know about it ahead of its release.

The campaign ad shows a video of a fictional group text conversation between left-wing political leaders including the Arab majority Joint List’s Ayman Odeh, Meretz’s Tamar Zandberg, Labor’s Merav Michaeli and Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid.

The group jokes around in the video and adds right-wing party leaders Bennett of Yamina and Gideon Sa’ar of New Hope.

The video shows a fictional text from Labor candidate Ibtisam Mara’ana, saying, “I asked a Holocaust survivor one time, ‘What’s your number?’ hahaha.” Mara’ana, an Arab Israeli filmmaker, has been the subject of controversy in recent weeks.

At another point, Ma’aranana posts an image of Hitler with a heart emoji.

Lapid then agrees to demands from Arab lawmakers in the fictional chat, including canceling the right of return, which allows diaspora Jews to emigrate to Israel, and for establishing a “Hamas Recognition Day.”

Zandberg calls for a day for former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and a monthly visit to his gravesite.

At the end of the ad, Lapid writes, “Believe me, we’re lucky there’s not a government with Ben Gvir.”

The ad closes with images of Ben Gvir and Smotrich and the text, “Winning together.”

Bennett wrote on Facebook, “Bezalel, the time has come to say enough.”

“There is a limit. I have been quiet until now over all these attacks because I did not want to fight with you but tonight you crossed a line.”

Smotrich says after the video’s release, “The video that was released tonight without our knowledge is a serious matter… the Holocaust is out of bounds. Period.”

He accused Bennett of aiming to form a government with Lapid and Michaeli, but said, “The debate needs to be held within boundaries.”

In another response, Smotrich says, “Naftali, I already clarified that the video is a serious incident and that I don’t stand behind it. Great that you’re celebrating this and doing a lap. Now let’s talk about values.”

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