Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday evening that if he is reelected as premier in next month’s general election his next coalition government will include attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir, chairman of the Otzma Yehudit party.
Otzma Yehudit is running on a joint list with MK Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionist Party, after officials close to Netanyahu pressured the two sides to reach a deal to form a technical bloc to avoid losing votes for the right-wing bloc.
In response to questions from Kan, Netanyahu said that Ben-Gvir would likely be in the next government – but will not be a minister.
“Itamar Ben-Gvir will not be a part of the government, but he will be part of our coalition, just as Ben-Ari was, without having any influence,” Netanyahu said, referring to former MK Michael Ben-Ari, who was elected to the Knesset in 2009 as part of a joint ticket with the National Union, the predecessor of the Religious Zionist Party.
Netanyahu pushed back on criticism of Ben-Gvir’s possible inclusion in the coalition, calling it “hypocrisy” to reject Ben-Gvir as a possible coalition member, while ignoring controversial statements by Ibtisam Mara'ana, an Israeli-Arab filmmaker placed number seven on the Labor Party’s Knesset slate.
“That is hypocrisy to judge Ben-Gvir while being willing to accept the number seven on the Labor list, who has called the IDF ‘war criminals’.”