Nobel winner says extremist party sent fake messages touting his support

Yisrael Aumann says he doesn’t disagree with Otzma Yehudit’s views but won’t vote for it because he doesn’t believe it will enter Knesset; elections committee rejects complaint

Professor Yisrael Robert Aumann. (Flash90)
Professor Yisrael Robert Aumann. (Flash90)

Nobel-winning mathematician Yisrael Robert Aumann filed a complaint Tuesday with the Central Elections Committee against the extremist Otzma Yehudit party, which he said “spread a false report” that he supported it.

Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer, who heads the Central Elections Committee, rejected the complaint hours later.

Aumann’s lack of support, he clarified, was not because he disagreed with the party’s positions, but because he believed it didn’t stand a chance of passing the 3.25 percent electoral threshold.

After prospective voters began to receive text messages claiming Aumann’s support, Yamina party candidate Naftali Bennett called the famed game theory pioneer.

“I said that if there was a reasonable chance that they’ll pass the threshold, then maybe it would be worthwhile to help them do so,” Aumann told the Srugim website. “But I added that in my view the polls showing them getting four seats was spin, that they don’t have a reasonable chance of passing the threshold, and that [voters] should back Yamina.”

The complaint said Otzma Yehudit’s claim it had Aumann’s support likely violated Israeli election law by misleading prospective voters. It called on Melcer to order Otzma Yehudit to cease using election materials with Aumann’s name and said claims of his support for the party were a “complete lie.”

Aumann, a professor at Hebrew University, won the 2005 Nobel Prize in economics for his work on game theory.

He is known for holding staunch right-wing views and has applied game theory to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, arguing Israel’s complete withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005 made reaching a peace agreement more difficult by incentivizing violence against the Jewish state.

Itamar Ben Gvir of Otzma Yehudit at a party branch in Safed, northern Israel, on September 8, 2019 (David Cohen/Flash90)

Otzma Yehudit is led by former disciples of the late extremist rabbi Meir Kahane. It was forecast in the final polls published before Tuesday’s elections to squeak into the Knesset with four seats, though those were conducted before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu implored right-wing Israelis to spurn the party.

Before elections in April, Netanyahu brokered an agreement to include Otzma Yehudit in the Union of Right-Wing Parties electoral alliance, arguing its votes would be “wasted” otherwise. The move was met with widespread condemnation and despite Likud’s backing for a resurrection of the alliance ahead of the September 17 vote, Otzma Yehudit rebuffed offers to again team up with other national religious parties and decided to run alone.

The Otzma Yehudit platform envisages Israel’s sovereign borders extending from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River — throughout the West Bank territory that was captured by Israel in the 1967 war. “Enemies of Israel” within those expanded borders will be resettled elsewhere in the Arab world, it says. In addition, the platform calls for Jewish sovereignty to be “restored” to the Temple Mount — where Israel already claims sovereignty, but where Muslim authorities maintain religious control with only Muslims allowed to pray there, though Jews may visit without praying.

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