New Right party leaders Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked announced Tuesday that French-immigrant lawyer Yomtob Kalfon had joined their list of candidates for the April elections.
“Yomtob Kalfon has a true Zionist soul and will be the voice of the Francophones in the Knesset,” Bennett said in a party press release.
In an apparent bid to use Kalfon, 32, to help attract votes from Israel’s roughly 200,000 French immigrants, Bennett pulled out a plan he had previously announced in December and said his party is launching a program to bring 50,000 new immigrants from France and Belgium.
An increase in anti-Semitic attacks initially drove up immigration from France to 6,770 people in 2015, but that dropped to 2,660 in 2018.
However, France has seen a fresh wave of anti-Semitic incidents in recent days, including the overnight vandalism of dozens of graves in a French Jewish cemetery.
Around 80 graves were discovered to have been daubed with swastikas at a Jewish cemetery in the village of Quatzenheim, close to the border with Germany in the Alsace region.
The flare-up of anti-Semitic vandalism and abuse in recent weeks, has often coincided with “yellow vest” anti-government demonstrations.
Last weekend a torrent of hate speech was directed at prominent French Jewish philosopher Alain Finkielkraut during a march of yellow vest anti-government protesters.
Bennett called the government’s inability to boost immigration from France “an historic failure. It is our moral duty to rise to the challenge and help them, and we will do so.”
After Israel and the US, the Jewish community in France is the third largest in the world and numbers roughly half a million. Bennett claims that at least 200,000 of them are interested in immigrating to Israel.
Israel’s political parties have only two days left to meet the deadline to submit their lists of candidates for the April 9 elections.
In December, Bennett, the current education minister and his colleague Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked quit the Jewish Home party and established the New Right (HaYamin HeHadash , a party they said was based on “full partnership” between Orthodox and secular Israelis.
To date, the other announced New Right candidates include journalist Caroline Glick, disabled rights activist Shirley Pinto, Hapoel Beersheba soccer team owner Alona Barkat, Jewish Home alumnus Shuli Moalem-Refaeli, former fighter pilot Col. (res) Matan Kahana, educator Amichai Chikli, journalist Elyashiv Reichner, Rabbi Uri Schechter and Ron Bar-Yoshafat the deputy director of the Kohelet Forum.