Former Yisrael Beytenu MK launches new party in last-ditch bid to remain in Knesset

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

Eli Avidar speaks at a press conference at the Knesset, February 22, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Eli Avidar speaks at a press conference at the Knesset, February 22, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Former Yisrael Beytenu lawmaker Eli Avidar announces his new political party, Israel Free, which he says will change governance and press for his flagship legislation, a law to prevent indicted politicians from becoming prime minister.

“It’s time for a new contract with the public. Free of crooks in politics,” Avidar wrote in a statement announcing his party.

Although teasing an independent run for months, Avidar enters the November 1 Knesset race after a tumultuous year in politics. First entering the Knesset with Yisrael Beytenu in 2019, Avidar pulled away from the party after not being given a ministerial post last June. He was later coaxed back into the coalition with a ministerial post in the Prime Minister’s Office, which he also later discarded as lacking influence.

Avidar rose to fame as a protest leader against former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as part of a weekly gathering outside of the prime minister’s Jerusalem residence on Balfour Street. His main policy goal in the outgoing Knesset was to pass a law prohibiting indicted politicians from forming a government, which would block Netanyahu – on trial for corruption charges – from reclaiming his former seat of power.

“All those who refused to pass the Criminal Defendant Bill caused the overthrow of the change government and continued the Netanyahu government policy of trampling on civil rights,” he says.

Sending a warning to other politicians, Avidar charges that coalition members who did not support his single-issue focus on passing the bill to block indicted politicians from the premiership will “pay for it at the ballot box.”

Saying that the party will fight for peace, social justice, to change Israel’s “rotten” governance system and to lower cost of living, Avidar’s platform echoes many protest-movement issues.

“This is the time for a ‘Israel free’ from dictatorship, corruption, coercion, anxiety, incitement, racism, bullying, oppression, and organized crime, and from hesitant politicians who blur positions in order to escape into Netanyahu’s arms at the moment of truth,” the politician adds.

While Avidar is still building his party list and has not shared candidate names, a spokesperson for the politician says it will include members of the protest movement.

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