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.
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.
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.