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Israel's KKK on the way to government?

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Jonathan Cook
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has brokered an electoral alliance that is almost certain to bring Israel's version of the Ku Klux Klan into the Israeli parliament when elections are held later this month.

Netanyahu's primary aim is to make sure he wins a decisive majority by shoring up the far-right bloc so that he can pass an immunity law to neutralize his current corruption trial.

Enter Otzma Yehudit, or the Jewish Power party.

Otzma Yehudit is strongly influenced by the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose virulently anti-Palestinian Kach party was barred from Israeli elections more than 30 years ago.

Since being proscribed, Kach has been declared a terrorist organisation in most western countries, including the United States, Canada and the European Union.

Most of the leadership of Jewish Power had previously been involved with Kach, including its current leader, Itamar Ben Gvir, who held a position in Kahane's movement in his student days.

Jewish Power's former leader and current chair, Michael Ben Ari, has been banned from entering the US because of his links to Jewish terrorism.

Nonetheless, Netanyahu is widely reported to have offered sweeteners to get Jewish Power and two other extreme right parties to establish a new alliance called Religious Zionism.

And despite claims by Netanyahu that Ben Gvir will not be given a ministerial post in his government after the 23 March election, Netanyahu may have to capitulate if his far-right and religious coalition needs Jewish Power to secure a majority of seats.

Polls currently suggest no one commands a clear majority.

'Kosher certificate'

Since its formation in 2012, Jewish Power has not managed on its own to pass the electoral threshold of 3.25 percent of votes cast - the equivalent of about four seats in the 120-member Knesset, Israel's parliament.

Last month, however, Netanyahu's Likud party signed a surplus vote-sharing agreement with Religious Zionism.

Netanyahu's move in part reflects his desperation to win a decisive victory on 23 March after three stalemated elections over the past two years.

Without a clear parliamentary majority, he cannot pass an immunity law that will block his current trial on several charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust. So far he has successfully dragged out the proceedings, using Covid-19 restrictions as the pretext.

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Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the 2011 winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: (more...)

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