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US Jewish groups largely mum as exit polls show far-right surge

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

American Jewish groups mostly stay mum on tonight’s exit polls showing a major win for the far-right Religious Zionism Party, whose rise has been a source of significant concern for many US Jews.

CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations William Daroff told the English-language i24 news channel that he was withholding comment until the full results come in but that American Jewry needed to “respect democracy.”

“Exit polls are just that. They’re just polls,” Daroff says. “If [opposition leader Benjamin] Netanyahu is the prime minister, we will work with him. But it’s early in the process.”

Asked specifically about the Religious Zionism Party, which is projected to be the third-largest party in the next Knesset and the second-largest party in a possible coalition, Daroff says it is too soon to comment. “When that coalition comes together, and we won’t know that tonight or tomorrow, we’ll engage at that time,” he says, adding: “I do think it’s important that the concerns of the Diaspora are in the mix.”

The pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC, which denounced the Otzma Yehudit faction of the party as “racist and reprehensible” ahead of the March 2019 elections, refuses to comment on whether it still holds that assessment of the party today.

The Anti-Defamation League, which last month warned that some members of the party have “Kahane-inspired extremist ideologies,” says it is not yet prepared to make a comment on the matter.

The left-wing Americans for Peace Now organization, however, is unequivocal in raising its concerns over a potential right-wing coalition that includes the Religious Zionist Party.

“If it materializes, such a coalition would have horrendous implications,” the group says in a statement. “Along with a threat to security and stability, Israel’s relations with its allies, including with the United States, would suffer a deep crisis. Estrangement and alienation among American Jews would reach unprecedented levels.”

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