Pair said to meet weekly, but no photos released

Netanyahu and Ben Gvir meet, agree to coordinate campaign, media strategy — report

Channel 12 says party leaders will not target each other’s traditional base of voters; opposition chief reportedly concerned far-right party could attract voters from Likud

Likud's Benjamin Netanyahu (L), in Jerusalem on September 11, 2022 and Otzma Yehudit's Itamar Ben Gvir (R), in Jerusalem on July 11, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
Likud's Benjamin Netanyahu (L), in Jerusalem on September 11, 2022 and Otzma Yehudit's Itamar Ben Gvir (R), in Jerusalem on July 11, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir of Religious Zionism-Otzma Yehudit met on Wednesday and agreed to coordinate on campaign and media strategy, Channel 12 news reported.

According to the report, the two politicians discussed the areas in which they will focus their campaigns, as well as media coordination.

The unsourced report said Netanyahu hoped Ben Gvir would focus efforts on his traditional voter base, and on those who did not cast ballots in previous elections, rather than trying to attract Likud voters.

Netanyahu is reportedly concerned that Ben Gvir could take votes from Likud in the November 1 election.

Ben Gvir was said to be equally keen that Netanyahu’s Likud not focus efforts on attracting voters from his party.

According to the report, Ben Gvir and Netanyahu now meet on a weekly basis. However, no photos have been released of any of those consultations.

There was no formal announcement or confirmation of the meeting.

Ben Gvir is the leader of far-right Otzma Yehudit party, which is running with MK Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism. The two parties agreed to run together at the urging of Netanyahu.

MK Itamar Ben Gvir and MK Bezalel Smotrich of Religious Zionism-Otzma Yehudit registered their party for the upcoming elections at the Knesset, September 14, 2022. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)

A senior Likud member said last month that he would “do everything” to ensure extremist lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir is included in the next government.

Miki Zohar, who is 10th on the Likud electoral slate and is considered an ally of Netanyahu, defended the controversial far-right politician as “a right-wing person who, bottom line, has maintained his Jewish pride.”

Ben Gvir is an ardent admirer of the late racist rabbi Meir Kahane, who advocated for transferring Israel’s Arabs out of the country. He was convicted of incitement to racism in 2007 for holding a sign at a protest reading, “Expel the Arab enemy.”

Until it began to harm him politically, Ben Gvir kept a picture of Baruch Goldstein on a wall of his Hebron home. Goldstein massacred 29 Palestinians at prayer in Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs in 1994. Recently, Ben Gvir said he no longer considers Goldstein a “hero.”

The Otzma Yehudit leader frequently stirs up friction between Jewish and Arab Israelis and was reportedly accused by the national police chief of abetting the worst inter-communal violence in recent Israeli history in May of last year.

He has additionally allied with some of Israel’s most extremist Jewish movements and activists — including Lehava, a Jewish supremacist anti-miscegenation group, and the virulently homophobic Noam.

The report said the meeting between Netanyahu and Ben Gvir came against a backdrop of polls showing that the gap between Lapid and Netanyahu remains narrow, with no clear victor after the November 1 elections.

Likud party chief Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the media in Tel Aviv, October 3, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/ Flash90)

Israeli polls are notably unreliable, but, nevertheless, often steer the decision-making of politicians.

A Channel 12 poll published Tuesday, which asked respondents whom they would vote for if the election were held today, showed Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc receiving 59 seats, with Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s outgoing coalition collecting 57 seats, and Hadash-Ta’al holding the other four seats.

Broken down into parties, the poll indicated that the Likud would receive 31 seats, Yesh Atid 24 seats, Religious Zionism 13 seats, National Unity party 12 seats, Shas 8 seats, United Torah Judaism 7 seats, Yisrael Beytenu 6 seats, Labor 6 seats, Meretz 5 seats, Ra’am and Hadash-Ta’al each with 4 seats.

Jewish Home and the Arab nationalist Balad were not projected to cross the threshold.

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