Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Itamar ben Gvir with Rabbi Dov Lior and Baruch Marzel at the launch of the Otzma Yehudit campaign, February 15, 2020.

Rabbi Dov Lior, the former Chief Rabbi of Hebron and Kiryat Arba, Rosh Yeshiva of the Kiryat Arba Hesder Yeshiva, and head of the Council of Rabbis of Judea and Samaria, on Saturday night, called on MK Itamar Ben Gvir and his three former allies in the Otzma Yehudit party: Michael Ben Ari, Baruch Marzel, and Yehzekel Hason, to abandon their plan to settle their differences in the courts.

Ben Ari, Marzel, and Hason used to be Ben Gvir’s allies in the party, and, in fact, it was only after the High Court of Justice banned Ben Ari from running to the Knesset over his public statements that Ben Gvir was given the leadership post. Now, as the same Ben Gvir has been disavowing some of the party’s agenda, especially regarding the political teachings of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane and the memory of Hebron Massacre perpetrator Dr. Baruch Goldstein, his former partners want to deny him the leadership of their party and accuse him of using tyrannical methods to take it over (Ben Gvir’s Allies’ Condemnation Draws Moderate Right-Wing Voters, Scares the Left).

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Rabbi Lior sent a letter to all four men Saturday night, telling them he’d heard about their contemplation of going to court to resolve their disputes, and asking “How is it possible for men like you think that justice can come out through the legal system as it is seen today?”

“I call on you and ask you to resolve the issues that are in dispute among you before a rabbinic legal court – myself, as was suggested by you a few days ago, or before any other rabbinical court you will agree on. I am asking you personally not to go to the secular courts. It is of great importance for the benefit of the people of Israel, that these matters be settled by the light of the Torah of Israel and not in the courts.”

Rabbi Dov Lior’s letter / Screenshot

In early September, Rabbi Lior gave his blessings to Itamar Bengvir and his decision to join Bezalel Smotrich in running for the 25th Knesset. He then taped a message to Otzma members, saying, “I address this to all the dear friends who supported Otzma’s list, and recently, after all kinds of incarnations, it united with Religious Zionism. I think it is the right step, even though there are friends who doubt it, but we need to see that Israel’s unity and togetherness outweigh other interests.”

The friendly fire from his former partners provided Ben Gvir with a priceless opportunity to embed himself closer to the center, to become more attractive to former Yamina voters who don’t trust Ayelet Shaked et al to cross the 3.25% vote threshold. To that end, Ben Gvir responded: “I love Baruch Marzel dearly and respect him very much, and will continue to respect him, and I have not a single bad word to say about him. Baruch was unfairly disqualified by the Supreme Court and a great injustice was done to him.”

He then closed the sale: “I know and cherish his activities, but I am not Rabbi Kahane Hy’d, and the party does not continue the path of the Kach movement.”

Rabbi Lior may not have liked some of these maneuvers, but he is obviously committed to going for a big victory for the religious Zionist right, and such a victory requires shedding the Kahane and Goldstein ballast. It’s how you win political wars – something Ben Ari and Marzel were never very good at.

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.