Netanyahu brokers deal for extremist anti-LGBT party to run with Religious Zionism

Noam head Avi Maoz says he’ll take 11th spot on slate of allied far-right parties

MK Avi Maoz speaks during a plenum session in the assembly hall of the Knesset on December 15, 2021. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)
MK Avi Maoz speaks during a plenum session in the assembly hall of the Knesset on December 15, 2021. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)

MK Avi Maoz said Wednesday that his anti-LGBT Noam party would renew its union with the far-right Religious Zionism and Otzma Yehudit, giving up a solo run. The development came after Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu put personal pressure on Noam’s spiritual leader to do so.

“After a long meeting with the rabbis of the party, it was decided to comply with the request of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to join the union under Religious Zionism and take the 11th place,” Maoz said in a statement.

Netanyahu met earlier Wednesday with Rabbi Zvi Tau, Noam’s spiritual leader, and urged him to unite his ultra-conservative faction with Religious Zionism and Otzma Yehudit ahead of the November 1 elections, Hebrew media reported. Although Tau reportedly did not commit to Netanyahu after two hours of talks at the rabbi’s home, the party eventually agreed.

Last month Netanyahu brokered a deal for Religious Zionism and Otzma Yehudit to run together once more.

The election is thought likely to produce another political stalemate, with no bloc having a clear path to forming a majority in the 120-seat Knesset. With the contest so close, Netanyahu, whose Likud party leads a right-wing religious bloc predicted to get between 57 and 61 seats, is seeking unity on the far-right to prevent any votes being lost on parties that won’t clear the 3.25% threshold for entry into parliament. Netanyahu needs at least 61 seats in his bloc to secure a fresh term as premier.

Earlier this week Maoz, Noam’s sole Knesset member, said the party would run independently in the election due to what Ynet reported was dissatisfaction with being offered the 11th slot on the combined slate.

Likud party and opposition leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu attends Kikar HaShabbat conference at the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem Hotel, September 12, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Religious Zionism, led by MK Bezalel Smotrich, was preparing to formally submit the joint slate later in the day. Parties have until Thursday to finalize their rosters for the election.

Religious Zionism had said earlier on Wednesday that Noam was on its own, and criticized the move.

“Unfortunately, Noam will not be joining our union and announced a separate, irresponsible run that will endanger the right-wing bloc,” the party said.

“The victory of the right and the fight for the Jewish identity of the country oblige us to take zero chances of wasting votes that could lead to a left-wing progressive government under [Prime Minister Yair] Lapid,” the statement said.

Maoz had announced the split earlier in the week, saying Noam decided to run independently — despite the high likelihood of it failing to pass the electoral threshold — citing “unequivocal calls from our many supporters.”

Netanyahu successfully brokered the alliance between Ben Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit and Smotrich’s Religious Zionism following Ben Gvir’s short-lived decision to run separately, due to a dispute with Smotrich over the makeup of their electoral slate.

Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli, who leads the left-wing Labor party, slammed Netanyahu for allying with Tau, Smotrich and Ben Gvir.

“In this election we will choose if we are to be a dark, exclusionary and racist country or a country that generates moderation and tolerance and above all – equality,” she said in a statement.

Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli, holds a press conference, in Tel Aviv, September 14, 2022. (Flash90)

Zehava Galon, head of the left-wing Meretz party, also criticized Netanyahu for meeting with Tau, and suggested that the former prime minister would do anything to return to power, with an eye toward his ongoing corruption trial.

“It is interesting to see which Bibi will sell out first in order to escape justice: women or the gay community,” she tweeted, using Netanyahu’s nickname.

Noam burst onto the political scene in 2019 with a series of provocative highway billboards and video ads saying slogan “Israel chooses to be normal.”

The party claims that the LGBT community has “forced its agenda” on the rest of Israeli society. A 2019 campaign video compared Reform Jews, left-wing activists, and gay rights advocates to Nazis and Palestinian suicide bombers, saying all of them “want to destroy us.”

The party merged with Otzma Yehudit ahead of the September 2019 election, but failed to cross the threshold. It then ran independently ahead of the March 2020 election before dropping out days before the race.

Finally, it merged with Otzma Yehudit and Religious Zionism, under intense pressure from Netanyahu before the 2021 election, garnering enough votes for Maoz to become the first member of his party to enter the Knesset.

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