Netanyahu reportedly again allying with extreme right-wing parties

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits a vaccination center in Jerusalem, Jan. 6, 2021. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/Flash90)

Ron Kampeas

(JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly is striking a deal with parties on the extreme right to consolidate his chances of reelection, a strategy that in 2019 drew rare rebukes from American Jewish groups.

The Times of Israel, citing multiple Israeli media outlets, said Netanyahu was behind the merger Wednesday of three parties: Jewish Power, or Otzma Yehudit, which follows the teachings of the late extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane; Noam, an anti-LGBTQ party; and Religious Zionism, one of several heirs to the national religious movement.

Getting the parties to merge means they are likelier to meet the threshold needed to enter the Knesset in elections next month and then back Netanyahu in his efforts to build a coalition.

Reports that Netanyahu engineered a similar maneuver in 2019 led to the rebukes from American Jewish groups. This time, the Anti-Defamation League’s Israel office made a similar warning.

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“We are disturbed by reports of efforts to ensure that extremist parties cross the electoral threshold and make it into the Knesset,” the office said in a tweet. “Assistance to mainstreaming them is a dangerous phenomenon which risks normalizing racism in the Knesset and Israeli society.”

AIPAC, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs declined to comment, while other groups did not return requests for comment.