- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has formed an alliance with a far-right ultranationalist political party that experts say is Israel’s version of the Ku Klux Klan.
- This is part of Netanyahu’s bid to retain power as he faces mounting political pressure and legal woes.
- Netanyahu is a close ally of President Donald Trump, but experts say his new alliance won’t impact their relationship.
- The party Netanyahu made a deal with, the Jewish Power party, is an offshoot of the Kach party – a faction that was banned in Israel and designated a terrorist organisation by the Israeli government, the US State Department, and the FBI.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a close ally of President Donald Trump, is facing criticism after embracing a far-right political party with unabashedly racist and ultranationalist beliefs.
Netanyahu on Wednesday brokered a deal between his Likud party and two far-right parties as part of a broader effort to shore up support before Israel’s elections on April 9.
The Israeli prime minister is hoping the new alliance between the far-right, pro-settler Jewish Home party and extremist Jewish Power party will ensure that far-right parties hold enough seats for him to retain power following election day.
To get the parties to agree to the deal, Likud promised to reserve the 28th spot on its parliamentary list for united far-right groups as well as two ministerial posts and two seats in the Security Cabinet, Axios reported.
In short, Netanyahu has opened the door for extremists to gain a presence in Israel’s parliament.
Accordingly, Netanyahu is facing a slew of criticism for making any sort of alliance with Jewish Power.
The Kach party was led by the late US-born Rabbi Meir Kahane, an ultranationalist who advocated for barring non-Jews from Israel and called for Arabs and Jews to be segregated.
By forging a partnership with this group, experts say Netanyahu has essentially joined hands with Israel’s version of the Ku Klux Klan.
Hussein Ibish, a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, told INSIDER “there is no other way of describing Mr. Netanyahu’s new partners” then as an “extremely radical and overtly racist hate group.”
The Forward, a Jewish American magazine, responded to the move in an article that alleged Netanyahu “just invited Israel’s equivalent of the KKK to join the government.” Ibish agrees with this assertion.
“They are indeed the Jewish Israeli equivalent of the KKK, unabashed proponents of ethnic power and the subjugation of an already oppressed minority (the Palestinian citizens of Israel),” Ibish added. “Indeed, the history of this movement suggests that they are ethnic cleansers who ultimately seek to expel all or most of the indigenous, non-Jewish communities in Israel and Palestine from the land.”
Ibish said the Jewish Power party openly advocates for “massive war crimes and enormous human rights violations” and “not as a last resort during conflict but as a preferred and deliberate policy option.”
“Their attitude is borderline genocidal in its broadest sense,” Ibish added.
Aaron David Miller, the vice president and Middle East program director at the Wilson Center, tweeted that the alliance Netanyahu has formed “will live in infamy in his politics and and Israel’s.”
Expanding on this, Miller in an email told INSIDER, “Netanyahu in order to remain in power has not only resurrected the spirit of Israel’s Meir Kahane, likely the worst racist ideologue and operator in Israel’s history, but conceivably – should he win reelection – brought his followers into a governing coalition.”
This move from Netanyahu also has implications for Trump, who’s at the center of Israel’s upcoming election.
The Likud party has plastered massive images of Netanyahu and Trump on buildings in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Netanyahu goes full-on Trump at entrances to Jerusalem & Tel Aviv. “Netanyahu: A Different League” pic.twitter.com/9wAFVEA1jK
— Noga Tarnopolsky (@NTarnopolsky) February 3, 2019
The Israeli leader has sought to emphasise his close relationship with the US president as he fights for reelection and potentially faces indictment on corruption charges.
There are calls from advocacy groups like J Street, which describes itself as a cohort of “pro-Israel” and “pro-peace” Americans, for US officials to “condemn Netanyahu’s efforts to bring these extreme racists into Israel’s next government.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from INSIDER.
With that said, Ibish said he doesn’t see this move from Netanyahu having any significant impact on Israeli-US relations or Trump’s relationship with Netanyahu.
Trump is “the least likely American leader to be offended” by Netanyahu embracing an extremist group, according to Ibish.
“Trump is exceptionally pro-Israel, does not seem particularly interested in a two-state solution, has cut the Palestinians off from all US funding and shuttered their diplomatic mission in Washington, and is unlikely to be offended by anything Mr. Netanyahu could do to the Palestinians,” Ibish said.
He added that Trump is also a “proponent of ethnic nationalism and discrimination around the world, a friend to strongmen and not someone who is at all bothered by racism and systematic bigotry,” which is another reason he won’t take issue with Netanyahu embracing Jewish Power.
Ibish also said the “emergence of a left-wing fringe in the Democratic Party that is critical of Israel and the occupation” also doesn’t mean we’ll see significant criticism of Netanyahu from Democratic leaders like Sen. Chuck Schumer. This is because uncritical support for the Israeli government in Washington is far too entrenched and is essentially “the political equivalent ‘friends letting friends drive drunk,'” Ibish said.
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