One of the goals of the Otzma Yehudit party is for the State of Israel to have judges with a Jewish and Zionist agenda, the party’s leader Itamar Ben Gvir said during a campaign rally in Jerusalem on Thursday night.
“We want to have judges with a Jewish and Zionist agenda,” Ben Gvir remarked, addressing an enthusiastic audience of about 400 people in one of the halls of a local movie theater.
Otzma Yehudit (“Jewish Power” in Hebrew) is running for the Knesset in Tuesday’s national elections in a joint list with the Religious Zionist Party. According to the latest polls, the list is set to earn between 12 and 14 seats, which would make it the third largest party in the Knesset, only under Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid.
In the current Knesset, the list has six seats and Ben Gvir is the only member of Otzma Yehudit. If the polls are accurate – in the past, this has often not been the case – the group and its leaders, Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, would likely play a key role in a potential right-wing governing coalition.
A veteran of far-right activism, until recently Ben Gvir was considered a political pariah even within the right-wing camp in light of some of his statements and actions. Among others, he advocated for the expulsion of Arab citizens of Israel and kept a portrait of Baruch Goldstein – a religious Jew who massacred 29 Muslim worshipers at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron – in his living room.
Now Ben Gvir says that he no longer supports expelling Arabs, but only Arabs who are disloyal to the State of Israel. In 2020, he also removed Goldstein’s portrait.
Around 350 people attended the rally. The vast majority could be recognized as members of the Religious Zionist community, men and boys wearing knitted kippot and women in ankle-length skirts. Several participants, on the other hand, were wearing traditional ultra-Orthodox garments.
At the event, the leader said that one of the party’s goals is to introduce the death penalty for terrorists.
“What do we want? We want the death penalty for terrorists,” he said.
“It is not acceptable that those who killed the Fogel family are just sitting in jail as in a spa,” he added referring to the victims of a bloody terror attack perpetrated by two Palestinian terrorists who killed mother, father and three children in Itamar in 2011.
The comment prompted the crowd to start chanting “death to terrorists” with several people chanting “death to Arabs” instead.
“No, don’t say that,” Ben Gvir replied addressing the crowd. “Sing death to terrorists,”
Addressing the cheering audience, who welcomed him by singing “here is the new prime minister” and “Ben Gvir, king of Israel,” the MK attacked political opponents and took some shots also at potential allies, arguing that some people in the Likud would rather see Netanyahu forming a government with the National Unity Party led by Benny Gantz than with him.
“Gantz is left wing,” Ben Gvir said.
He went on to illustrate some of his party’s political agenda, such as giving free parcels of land to soldiers, yeshiva students and women doing national service, as well as making compulsory for all students in Israel to take advanced classes in Jewish studies.
“We want everyone to know who they are, where they are from and where they are going,” he said, stressing the importance of Jewish identity.
“The time for Otzma Hayehudit has finally come,” he concluded, inviting everyone not only to vote for the list but also to bring as many people as possible to do the same. “It all depends on you.”