Itamar Ben-Gvir (left) and Bezalel Smotrich (right)
Itamar Ben-Gvir (left) and Bezalel Smotrich (right) Arutz Sheva

Officials close to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu recently tried to arrange a meeting between Otzma Yehudit chairman attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir and National Union chief MK Bezalel Smotrich for a potential joint run in the upcoming elections, according to a report Monday morning in Yediot Aharanot.

The report comes after Smotrich declared his plans to run independently of the Yamina ticket, at the helm of a new Religious Zionist party.

Members of Netanyahu’s inner circle invited Smotrich and Ben-Gvir to meet at the Prime Minister’s Residence recently – but were reportedly rebuffed by Ben-Gvir, who is said to have feared that the meeting was intended not to actually forge an alliance between Otzma and the National Union, but to pressure Yamina chief Naftali Bennett to make concessions to Smotrich.

Had the meeting taken place, the report claims, Netanyahu was to have acted as broker between the National Union and Otzma Yehudit in a bid to help the two reach a deal for a united ticket in the upcoming elections.

While Ben-Gvir had agreed in principle to attend the meeting, he conditioned his participation on receiving an explicit promise that the meeting would not be used to pressure Bennett. Netanyahu’s confidants refused to make such a promise, and the meeting was cancelled.

A spokesperson for Netanyahu denied any knowledge of the attempt to arrange such a meeting.

Smotrich’s office responded to the report by saying that the new Religious Zionist party “is managing its own affairs by itself and does not need anyone to be its broker.”

Ben-Gvir also responded to the report, saying: “We would be happier if Bezalel Smotrich would work with us as a partner in establishing real unity in Religious Zionism and making a big change on the Right, but there is every indication that Bezalel has decided not to join such an alliance but instead just wants to increase his position vis-à-vis Bennett. We won’t respond to the other claims raised.”

Join our official WhatsApp group