Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu has his eyes set on returning to the office of Prime Minister, but he needs to win a 61-seat majority in the Knesset to form a coalition that could pass laws, and take steps to stop his corruption trial.
How’s he doing with the bid?
In the last few days, he united two radical right-wing Jewish supremacist parties – the Religious Zionism party and the Jewish Power party – to try to help him win November’s election. He invited them to a meeting late last week to discuss how they could work together to win the election. His potential allies, however, hold extreme views that have caught the attention of observers.
What about them?
One invitee, Religious Zionism party leader Bezalel Smotrich, said the murder of a Palestinian family by Jewish settlers did not amount to terrorism, and he organized an anti-gay parade in Jerusalem. Jewish Power Party leader Itamar Ben-Gvir might be even worse. He was convicted in 2007 of supporting a terror organization and inciting racism. He has admitted that his goal is to create a government that encourages those “disloyal” to Israel to leave the country.
How do they stand with Israeli voters?
Though Ben-Gvir’s views were considered so extreme that he was banned from compulsory military service, his popularity appears to be growing. On Friday, Ben-Gvir was surging ahead in the polls. In 2019 and 2021, Netanyahu worked to get the two men elected, which at the time was compared to a U.S. president getting David Duke (yes, that David Duke) elected to political office. Ben-Gvir in particular has his media savvy to thank for his advancement.
The 46-year-old has been a fixture of extremism for nearly 20 years. After a career as a lawyer defending radical Jewish West Bank settlers, he decided to move more into the political sphere. If Netanyahu succeeds in getting them elected two months from now, Ben-Gvir and Smotrich would become senior ministers, most likely in the Security Cabinet.