Otzma: Window of opportunity closing; we'll run on our own

Otzma Yehudit Chair says they have no choice but to contend alone, even if unsure they will pass electoral threshold.

Shimon Cohen ,

Michael Ben Ari
Michael Ben Ari
Flash 90

In an interview with Arutz Sheva Otzma Yehudit Chairman Dr. Michael Ben-Ari concludes the prospects for unifying his party with the National Union and Jewish Home.

He said for all the past few weeks his party had called for unity and real negotiations, but has been met with derision and condescension.

"They conducted fake negotiations," says Ben-Ari, who states the two parties conducted a kind of negotiation whose purpose was to strengthen their position vis-à-vis each other and not achieve real results. When asked if his party was so easily deluded, he replied: "We knew they were deceiving us, but our working assumption was that we wouldn't slam the door."

In light of the current reality, Ben-Ari believes "There will be no unity with us, there's a big gap; we're not the Pragmatic Right. The National Union, including Orit Struk, was in a government that released terrorists three times just to sit down and talk to Abbas, and I haven't seen Smotrich presenting red lines for sitting in a government. The differences between them aren't ideological but power struggles within religious Zionism, struggles over money and jobs and not ideology."

Ben-Ari notes that had his party been present in the Knesset as part of the right-wing bloc, Bennett and Lapid's "brothers' alliance" would not have been created. "We're running because there are people who will never vote for a list that talks about alternate conversions or who embraces soldiers who expel them, and certainly won't vote for Shaked and Bennett who are talking about citizenship for another 450,000 Arabs, which will lead to the destruction of the State of Israel. Such foolishness has never been on the table."

At the same time, Ben Ari describes the great support he receives from the grass-roots and from communities that in the past were far from his party. "We're overwhelmed by telephone calls, our feeling is much better than 'good'; we're in a completely different place, we took the head-start as a test, and we see the economic mobilization to our aid. Smotrich spits on us and tells us to be between Hazan and Hanegbi. Was I silent when they fired five hundred missiles at the residents of Ashkelon and Hanegbi said they're not important? I went to the Amona evacuation; he despised us and spit on us.

"They're getting all their people to say we won't cross the threshold; so we won't pass the threshold, but we're running. I won't give my vote to someone who doesn't represent me. It won't help bringing in the Trojan Horse Nir Orbach; a failed man with tens of millions in debts who's still in personal contact every hour with Naftali Bennett and Shaked - we should vote for him?"

According to Ben Ari, the reality proves there is no room for union with Rabbi Peretz and Smotrich after they agreed and signed between them without referring to his own party. "Yesterday the media reported that they offered us positions 7-8. I don't know such a proposal, they didn't offer us even that; they signed us up on some proposal to use it the way they want, the contempt here is absolute. That's not how you negotiate," he said.

Ben-Ari believes the agreement signed on Thursday, as well as statements by senior Jewish Home and National Union members indicate there is no desire to hold negotiations. In this context, he mentions his invitation on Thursday to a signing in Jerusalem, where Nir Orbach and Rabbi Rafi Peretz were supposed to wait for him, while there was no intention of advancing negotiations for signing, but merely to exert pressure on Smotrich. He quoted Orit Struk saying she would have "nothing to do with the Kahanists".

When asked whether it is possible that in spite of the sharp things he says, a technical block will be formed, Ben-Ari says he will focus party activity now to build the list after its publication will be irreversible. He also notes that while the end of the deadline for submitting the lists is on Thursday, his party will reach the election committee on Wednesday morning to fight for the letters on the ballot slips, a struggle that the Jewish Home Party does not need to carry out because it is a functioning party and its letters are already reserved.

On the question of how many places he would like to see in the party that is united in his party, Ben Ari says: Third place, sixth, and ninth, because we're one-third of the force." When asked why in the previous elections against Eli Yishai he made do with only fourth place after three of Yishai's men, he replied: "With Eli Yishai we were in a different situation. But in the past four years our entire movement has been up and down the entire country. I worked for a living two days a week and all the other days I was out in the field. I don't see Yeshiva Har Hamor voting for the list in which Yifat Erlich is talking about alternative conversions."

Ben-Ari rejects the claim that unification could cost his party votes. "There's no poll showing us getting less votes. Nir Orbach says they'll examine it in a survey, but he's misleading because today is Sunday and no survey will give answers from day to day. We're going to battle and we're going to win and I hope there will be no mudslinging between us. Insulting Rabbi Kahane hurts my heart, and no one should do it. What, are we less loyal to the State ["mamlachti"] than Moti Yogev who said we should plow through the Supreme Court with a D9 [bulldozer]? Has anyone heard such an expression from me? And although you're a 'state loyalist' and I'm not, because I am a student of Rabbi Kahane, so it's okay to discredit me."

When asked if anything could change before he goes to the election committee, Ben-Ari makes it clear that his answer will be "certainly yes" if "there is a fair offer and not an insult". To this he adds that he believes his party will not be offered even insignificant places: "There's no mechanism today in the Androgynous National Union and Jewish Home that can decide to move someone from his place. In the end, everything is ego and everyone will be left out," he added.