Netanyahu to kick off campaign with visit to yeshiva run by anti-gay rabbi

Prime minister to visit Har Hamor seminary; its head formed the Noam faction, which likened LGBT and Reform Jews to the Nazis, campaigned against pluralistic prayer at Western Wall

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

People outside the Har Hamor Yeshiva in the neighborhood of Har Homa, Jerusalem, August 22, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
People outside the Har Hamor Yeshiva in the neighborhood of Har Homa, Jerusalem, August 22, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will pay a visit Thursday to a hardline religious men’s seminary in Jerusalem run by the head of a homophobic movement.

The visit to the Har Hamor Yeshiva will likely kick Netanyahu’s campaign should the Knesset vote Wednesday night to dissolve itself and call elections.

Earlier this year the head of the yeshiva, Rabbi Tzvi Tau, formed the Noam party, which campaigned ahead of the recent September election almost exclusively on combating LGBT acceptance.

The far-right slate dropped out days before the election after polling well under the threshold. Netanyahu’s Likud party had reportedly promised to shelve plans for a mixed-gender prayer area at the Western Wall in Jerusalem if Noam bowed from the race.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the conference of the Israeli newspaper ‘Makor Rishon’ at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, December 8, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

It funded provocative billboards and video ads with the slogan “Israel chooses to be normal,” and claimed the LGBT community has “forced its agenda” on the rest of Israeli society. It also likened LGBT and Reform Jews to the Nazis.

Last month, Tau attended a Likud rally in support of Netanyahu amid the criminal indictments facing the prime minister in three corruption cases against him.

Ads by the far-right religious-conservative Noam party bear anti-gay messages on billboards outside Tel Aviv. (Courtesy Noam party)

Israelis will likely head back to the polls on March 2 after two previous rounds of elections failed to break an impasse between Netanyahu’s Likud party and the centrist Blue and White.

A draft bill dissolving the Knesset and setting third elections for March 2, 2020, was filed Tuesday by lawmakers from both Likud and Blue and White. It is expected to pass its final readings in the Knesset before the midnight deadline.

Earlier Wednesday, Likud announced that in the case of elections, it would hold a leadership primary on December 26, where Netanyahu will face a challenge from former minister Gideon Sa’ar.

The visit to the yeshiva is seen by some as a bid by Netanyahu to appeal to Likud’s far-right flank ahead of the leadership contest.

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