Photo Credit: Flash 90
Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich at a campaign event in Bat Yam, April 6, 2019.

Otzma Yehudit party chairman Attorney Itmar Ben Gvir announced Monday night that he intends to run solo in Israel’s upcoming elections for the 25th Knesset after talks with Religious Zionism party chairman Bezalel Smotrich on a possible joint run failed to produce an agreement.

“Smotrich does not really want to negotiate and cooperate,” Ben Gvir told reporters. “In the past month and a half, I did everything so that I would run together with my friends in the Religious Zionism party,” he said.

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“Initially, Smotrich refused to negotiate but then agreed, albeit only on a whim, as it turns out. Now he’s demanding six of the eight seats.

“In every survey and every research poll, in the field and on the street, we come up many times bigger, but [Smotrich] still demands three quarters of the faction mandates.

“I gave up the first spot (on the list), and it was not enough. I gave up on the demand for party parity, and that was not enough either,” he added, saying he still has hopes that Smotrich will “come to his senses.”

Nevertheless, Ben Gvir said he respects Smotrich’s desire to “appeal to Shaked’s electorate.

“Therefore, I wholeheartedly announce the independent running of the Otzma Yehudit party for the upcoming elections.”

Smotrich: ‘Serious Mistake’
For his part, Smotrich said in a video message published Monday, “My friend Itamar, this is a serious mistake.

“The national camp cannot afford splits and divisions and there is a great risk of throwing votes in the trash, as has unfortunately happened more than once.

“We have another month until the closing of the lists: come back to the negotiating table.

“We will talk about everything, we will discuss everything, we will reach agreements on how to run together in order to maximize the power and bring about the victory of the national camp in the upcoming elections.”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.