Religious group calls on voters not to support Union of Right Wing Parties
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Religious group calls on voters not to support Union of Right Wing Parties

Pamphlets from Lekhatchila to be distributed in synagogues, warning that votes for list that includes the extremist Otzma Yehudit will result in ’embarrassment’

Otzma Yehudit party members Michael Ben Ari (R) and Itamar Ben Gvir speak to the media after a Supreme Court hearing on whether to disqualify them from running in the upcoming elections on March 14, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Otzma Yehudit party members Michael Ben Ari (R) and Itamar Ben Gvir speak to the media after a Supreme Court hearing on whether to disqualify them from running in the upcoming elections on March 14, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

An organization affiliated with the National Religious Zionist camp in Israel launched a campaign Friday aimed at convincing voters not to support the Union of Right Wing Parties because the list includes the extremist right-wing Otzma Yehudit party on its slate for April’s elections.

The campaign is set to be publicized in pamphlets distributed in synagogues on Friday and over the Jewish Sabbath, the Ynet news site reported.

The campaign organizers, a group named Lekhatchila, argue that “it is a shame to contribute excess votes to a party that will embarrass you over the next four years.”

The campaign includes warnings that a vote for the Union of Right Wing Parties may result in secular colleagues asking their religious friends at work whether they hold opinions similar to those of Otzma Yehudit, as well a scenario in which a child asks his father: “If it’s OK for Knesset members to express such views, why can’t I?”

Lekhatchila did not throw its support behind any of the other parties or factions running in the elections.

An unnamed campaign organizer told Ynet that the pamphlets were to take a stand against something “contrary to our true values.”

“Those who believe in the sanctity of the land [of Israel] and aim to safeguard its borders without compromises, but also with closeness and respect, must think twice before contributing their voices to something that is very contrary to our true values,” he said.

Otzma Yehudit leaders have described themselves as proud disciples of the late rabbi Meir Kahane, who supported violently expelling Arabs from Israel and the West Bank and once proposed legislation outlawing inter-ethnic sexual relations. Kahane’s Kach party was declared illegal by Israeli authorities.

Otzma Yehudit now says it supports encouraging emigration of non-Jews from Israel, and expelling Palestinians and Arab Israelis who refuse to declare loyalty to Israel and accept diminished status in an expanded Jewish state, whose sovereignty extends throughout the West Bank.

At the Supreme Court on Thursday, Justice Uzi Fogelman said Otzma Yehudit leader Michael Ben Ari’s racism is “crystal clear,” during a hearing on his candidacy and that of Itamar Ben Gvir.

Jewish Home, considered a more moderate right-wing party, joined forces with Otzma Yehudit last month. Both parties are now part of the Union of Right Wing Parties, alongside the National Union.

The joint party is headed by Jewish Home’s Rafi Peretz, with National Union’s Bezalel Smotrich in second place.

The merger sparked considerable uproar for all but guaranteeing the entry of up to two self-described disciples of Kahane into the upcoming Knesset. However, most of the criticism from opposition lawmakers and Jewish groups abroad has been directed at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who orchestrated the merger in an effort to ensure that his longtime coalition partner Jewish Home would cross the electoral threshold.

Prior to its approval by party members, the merger had even raised some criticism from within the ranks of the national religious parties by those who felt Otzma Yehudit was too extreme a partner to ally with.

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