Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Otzma Yehudit chairman Itamar Ben Gvir, September 2, 2019.

Likud officials recently approached Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and suggested he abandon his attempts to persuade the Otzma Yehudit Party to retire its campaign in exchange for rewards from Likud’s future government, as he has done with Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut. Instead, the officials are urging the PM to offer to help Otzma get past the vote threshold, Reshet Bet radio reported on Wednesday.

Otzma Yehudit chairman Itamar Ben Gvir on Tuesday addressed a report that Netanyahu had asked him to quit the race in exchange for the future lowering of the vote threshold, saying: “There isn’t a single poll that shows Netanyahu can become prime minister, so I am his lifeline.”

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“According to all the data, Netanyahu is three or four seats away from cobbling a rightwing government,” Ben Gvir continued, “And only with our four mandates would that be feasible. Not only am I going all the way, with God’s help we will save the rightwing block. We’ve all seen what’s been going on in the polls in recent days, the trend is wonderful and we are holding three and a half seats,” which is just short of the threshold.

“As long as we stood to win one or two mandates, the claims of those who asked us to step down were relevant. But those who talk to me now are telling the exact opposite story. They say I’m the only one who can save us. They kept talking about the polls, but now that the latest polls show us only about ten thousand votes from the threshold, we’re not valid?” Ben Gvir asked.

A Walla poll on Tuesday indicated the Likud is growing stronger at the expense of Ayelet Shaked’s Yamina party, and Otzma Yehudit receiving 2.7% of the vote, less than one percentage point below the 3.5% threshold. It’s not quite 10,000 votes, and it mostly comes from Yamina, meaning that it won’t add votes to the rightwing block, only rearrange the seats on the deck of Netanyahu’s ship.

Adva Biton (wearing large head cover) during a Likud party faction meeting at the Knesset, November 6, 2017. / Miriam Alster/Flash90

Nevertheless, Likud officials have been telling Netanyahu that since there was no real chance of persuading Itamar Ben Gvir’s party to drop out of the race, and since a meeting between Netanyahu and Ben Gvir is out of the question for the prime minister, because of the latter’s extremist image, Netanyahu should offer to meet publicly with number 2 on the Otzma list, Adva Biton, mother of the late Adele Biton who was killed in a terrorist attack, and present her as someone who faithfully represents religious Zionism and deserves to be in the Knesset.

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