New Right announces former fighter pilot as Knesset candidate
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Elections 2019

New Right announces former fighter pilot as Knesset candidate

Recently discharged officer Matan Kahana served with party chairman Bennett as a commando before joining air force

New Right candidate Matan Kahana before his discharge from the air force (Avichai Socher)
New Right candidate Matan Kahana before his discharge from the air force (Avichai Socher)

The newly formed New Right party announced early Friday that it was enlisting a former Israeli Air Force pilot and commando as a Knesset candidate on its slate ahead of the elections on April 8.

In a statement, the party said Col. (res) Matan Kahana is an old friend of the party’s chairman, Naftali Bennett, having served with him in the elite Sayeret Matkal unit in the early 1990s, before going on to become a pilot and command an F-16 squadron.

Kahana was discharged in August, the statement said.

Bennett, the education minister, praised Kahana’s military record and participation “in many combat operations,” and said he was “a role model both to religious youth and to Israeli young people in general.”

Matan Kahana (right) and Naftali Bennett in Sayeret Matkal (courtesy)

“There are very few people who completed the training to become fighters in Sayeret Matkal and then completed the pilot’s course and commanded a fighter [jet] squadron,” the New Right’s co-leader, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, said. “Matan, a member of the religious Zionist movement, represents the true, ideological right.”

Kahana, who is religious, said that the solidarity he had with his comrades in arms would guide his legislative work in a party that has emphasized its desire to appeal to a broad swath of Israeli society.

“I’m going into politics because I saw, as a commander, that we fight together without checking whether someone has or doesn’t have a kippah on their head, while in Israeli society we look at each other’s kippot instead of at each other’s hearts,” he said.

Bennett and Shaked announced at the end of December that they were departing the Jewish Home party to forge a “true partnership between secular and religious,” saying that the stalwart party of religious Zionism had lost its ability to influence Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and that a new right-wing platform was needed to challenge the premier.

Bennett said last week that the electoral slate being compiled “will increase the right-wing bloc,” and promised that with other high-profile candidates seeking to join, “further surprises are expected.”

New Right heads Naftali Bennett (L) and Ayelet Shaked (R) with Knesset candidate deaf rights activist Shirley Pinto, January 8, 2019. (New Right)

On Tuesday, the party announced that deaf rights activist Shirley Pinto will be joining it and running on the party slate in the elections as the first-ever deaf Knesset candidate.

Pinto, 30, a co-founder of the Israeli Center for Deaf Studies and a former representative for Israel at the World Federation of the Deaf, was the second freshman candidate announced by the New Right since Bennett and Shaked announced the formation of the party.

Deaf from birth, Pinto “decided to dedicate her life to changing reality for the deaf and hearing-impaired community,” the party said in a statement. After serving as a project officer in the Israeli Air Force and receiving the presidential award for excellence, she earned a BA in law from Netanya Academic College.

She then co-founded the Israeli Center for Deaf Studies, which aims to “create awareness in the State of Israel of recognizing sign language as equal to spoken languages, and to create awareness of the necessity of accessibility for deaf people,” according to its website.

Shaked framed the decision to include Pinto in the slate as part of the New Right’s plan to “enact right-wing policies with social sensitivity.”

Jerusalem Post Senior Contributing Editor Caroline Glick speaks at the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference, held at Waldorf Astoria hotel in Jerusalem. November 18, 2015. (Miriam Alster /Flash90)

Kahane and Pinto joins right-wing columnist Caroline Glick, who was announced as a New Right candidate last week, and MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli, who broke away from the Jewish Home party together with Bennett and Shaked. Four of the five candidates on the so-far-revealed slate are female.

Glick is senior staffer and columnist of The Jerusalem Post, a writer for US far-right outlet Breitbart News and a senior fellow of the US-based Center for Security Policy.

Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.

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