A second US lawmaker has come out against the inclusion of MK Itamar Ben Gvir, head of the Otzma Yehudit Party, in a future Israeli government.
Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) tweeted on Monday, “As Israel heads towards another election in November, I urge Israeli political leaders from all sides of the political spectrum to ostracize extremists like Itamar Ben Gvir whose outrageous views run contrary to Israel's core principles of a democratic and Jewish state.”
“These extremists undermine Israel's interests and the US-Israel relationship, which I and my colleagues have worked to strengthen,” added Sherman.
His comments follow a report last week by Axios, which said that Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) warned opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu last month not to include “right-wing extremists” in any future coalition government.
Menendez specifically demanded that Netanyahu not include Ben Gvir in a new government, adding that doing so would harm relations between Israel and the US.
Two sources familiar with the meeting said that during the September 5 meeting, Menendez "raised his concerns" about Netanyahu's political partners, specifically mentioning Otzma Yehudit and Ben Gvir and saying that he has "serious concerns" regarding a possible partnership between Netanyahu and "extremist and polarizing individuals like Ben Gvir" in a potential government.
On Tuesday, Ben Gvir pushed back on criticism by Menendez and dismissed accusations of racism.
“I am deeply concerned by reports that Senator Menendez has aimed incorrect and mistaken criticisms at the millions of Israelis who will soon vote in favor of a center-right government and me personally.”
Lauding Menendez as a "friend of Israel," Ben Gvir declared that his party is dedicated to combating "racist antisemitism".
“Everyone knows that the Senator is a true friend of Israel and a champion of the US-Israel relationship, and more importantly, he is a man of integrity. Therefore, my sense is that he would not have made the statements reported had he been correctly informed of the positions I hold, as well as those I do not hold,” he said.
“Those who are enemies of a strong Israel seek to besmirch me by calling me and my party racist. But the truth is that we’re anti-racist - we are fighting against the racist antisemitism fomenting within the boundaries of our homeland," said Ben Gvir.
“We believe that Israel needs to uproot terror organizations such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, just as the United States defeated Al-Qaeda. Like millions of Americans, we believe that peace comes through strength and that Israel’s policies should be based upon the firm enforcement of our right to sovereignty and self-defense.”
“In the next government, I will work to give Israel’s soldiers the confidence to fight Jihadist terror without rules of engagement that would endanger their own safety and lessen the effectiveness of their efforts. I hope to shape a justice system that works for all law-abiding citizens and residents - including those living under the corrupt Palestinian Authority which systematically represses Palestinian society while preaching Israel-hate as a matter of course.”
“In a press conference this week Benjamin Netanyahu put the critique against me in proportion: ‘I would have expected [the Americans] to warn us of a government that depends on the Muslim Brotherhood who support terrorism.’ Unlike the Muslim Brotherhood, the Zionist slate I am running with, the Religious Zionist party, has the broad support of Israelis all over the country, young and old and with diverse backgrounds who are looking for a future based on realism and solutions.”
“Indeed, polls show us being the third largest party in the upcoming elections for this reason. I, therefore, encourage our American allies to stand with Israel as we fight for the shared values of peace and freedom and to respect the independence of each other’s democratic process.”
(Israel National News' North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Yom Kippur in New York. The time posted automatically on all Israel National News articles, however, is Israeli time.)