Otzma Yehudit

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Otzma Yehudit

עוצמה יהודית
LeaderMichael Ben-Ari
Baruch Marzel
Itamar Ben-Gvir
Zvi Sukkot
ChairmanMichael Ben-Ari
SpokespersonMichael Ben-Ari
Founded13 November 2012
Merger ofJewish National Front
Hatikva
Split fromNational Union
HeadquartersJerusalem
IdeologyReligious Zionism
One-state solution[1]
Kahanism[2]
Anti-Arabism[3]
Ultranationalism[4]
Religious conservatism
Halachic state
Social conservatism
Political positionFar-right[5]
ReligionOrthodox Judaism
National affiliationYachad (2015 election)
United Right (2019 election)[6]
Slogan"There are no rights, without duties"[7]
AnthemJingle of Otzma LeYisrael
Knesset
0 / 120
Most MKs2 (2012)
Election symbol
נץ
Website
https://440.co.il

Otzma Yehudit (Hebrew: עוצמה יהודית, lit., Jewish Power) is a far-right[8] political party in Israel, which has been referred to as Kahanist and anti-Arab.[9][3][10] It was originally formed as Otzma LeYisrael (Hebrew: עָצְמָה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל, lit., Strength For Israel),[11][12] and was established on 13 November 2012 by MKs Aryeh Eldad and Michael Ben-Ari, who split from the National Union to form a new party ahead of the 2013 elections.[13]

Otzma Yehudit is the ideological descendant of the outlawed Kach party.[14][3][9][15][16] Michael Ben-Ari is the party's spokesman and chairman.[17] The party's executive director is Zvi Sukkot.[18][19]

The party ran in the 2013 election, but failed to pass the minimum 2% voting threshold by 9,000 votes, and did not receive any seats in the 19th Knesset.[20] In the 2015 election, they ran on a joint list with Yachad; however, the list narrowly failed to pass the 3.25% threshold.[21] Otzma Yehudit formed a technical bloc named the United Right with the Jewish Home party and Tkuma in advance of the 2019 election.[22][6]

Background[edit]

Eldad was first elected to the Knesset on the National Union list in 2003.[23] In November 2007, Eldad formed a new secular far-right party named Hatikva.[24] Ultimately, Hatikva ran as a faction of the National Union in the 2009 elections, and Eldad retained his seat.[25] Ben-Ari ran for Knesset unsuccessfully in the 2003 elections with the Herut – The National Movement party, and in the 2006 elections with the Jewish National Front party; both times, the parties failed to pass the threshold. Leading up to the 2009 elections, the Jewish National Front, headed by a long-time Kach party activist Baruch Marzel, allied with Eretz Yisrael Shelanu, a new party founded by Chabad Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpo. The joint list ran as part of the National Union, with Michael Ben-Ari, its representative, taking the fourth spot on the alliance's list. The National Union won four seats, allowing Ben-Ari to enter the Knesset.[26]

Eldad, a secular hard-liner, and Ben-Ari, an Orthodox Jew and former Kach activist,[27][28] decided to form the new faction of Strong Israel in October 2012, before the 2013 election, after months of infighting within the National Union, over if the party should hold primaries or not. Eldad was chosen to lead the party's list, followed by Ben-Ari and Marzel; the party was officially formed as a breakaway of the National Union on 13 November 2013.[13] The party has affiliations with, and shared their office with, the anti-assimilation group Lehava, whose Director-General Bentzi Gopshtain is a member of the party. The office of Lehava and Otzma Yehudit was raided in 2014.[29][30][31][32] The party's anthem is the "Jingle of Otzma LeYisrael".[33][34]

Ideology[edit]

The party is considered to be Religious Zionist, Kahanist, ultra-nationalist, anti-Arab, and far-right,[9][10][3][35] and has also been described as racist,[36][37][38] though the party disputes this.[39] It calls for the annexation of the West Bank, and for complete Israeli rule between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. The party is against the formation of a Palestinian state, and advocates for the cancellation of the Oslo accords, as well as for imposing Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount. The party also advocates for increased teaching of Jewish history in all elementary schools to "deepen Jewish identity in students".[10] The party is against "freezing construction of Jewish settlements, releasing terrorists, or negotiating with the PA".[40] The party advocates for the deportation of "Arab extremists".[40] On 24 February 2019, party member Itamar Ben Gvir called for the expulsion of Arab citizens of Israel who are not loyal to Israel.[41] The party advocates for what it calls "Jewish capitalism" as its economic system; they plan on saving "billions of shekels from the reduction of the defense budget following the removal of the enemy", which would be directed at infrastructure development, reducing bureaucracy and regulations, as well as allocating resources to strengthen "weak populations". The party also supports aiding the elderly and disabled. The party is also opposed to abortion.[42] The party supports easing restrictions on the IDFs rules of engagement.[43] The party is against price tag attacks.[44]

Election campaigns[edit]

In November 2012, Michael Ben-Ari announced the campaign slogan for the 2013 elections: "There are no rights without duties".[3] The party failed to pass the election threshold.[45]

In 2014, police raided the offices of Otzma Yehudit, due to the offices being shared with the organization Lehava.[29][30] This was also the year that the party announced they would be participating in the 2015 election; they announced that their slogan would be: "Those on the right vote Otzma Yehudit! Autonomy? Two states? There's Meretz for that. One state - Otzma Yehudit!"[46]

In 2015, the party chose to contest the 2015 Knesset election as part of a joint list with Yachad; Baruch Marzel was the only candidate from the party to run on the list.[47] There was a conflict during the negotiations between the parties due to Yachad being worried that if the parties ran on a list together, and failed to pass the threshold, it would put the right-wing coalition at risk.[40] It was speculated before the election that the joint list would win as many as 5 seats in the Knesset.[48] Though in the election, Yachad only won 125,106 votes (2.97%) votes, falling short of the 3.25% threshold needed for winning seats in the Knesset.[21] Members of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party were accused of tampering with the ballots of Yachad,[49] as well as creating a straw party with the election symbol of Otzma Yehudit to trick Yachad voters.[50]

After the elections, the party announced that they were planning on establishing an alternative media source. Michael Ben-Ari also said that the party was unsure if it planned on competing in other elections, instead hoping to focus on extra-parliamentary activism.[51]

On 5 November 2018, the party announced it was running for the 2019 Israeli legislative election.[52] They also launched a crowd-funding page to fund their campaign.[53] The funding campaign resulted in the party receiving NIS 820,000.[54] After Naftali Bennett announced that he was leaving The Jewish Home party to form the New Right party, Otzma Yehudit called on Bezalel Smotrich and Eli Yishai to create an Orthodox-nationalist bloc for running in the 2019 elections.[55]

In January 2019, the party entered talks with the Tkuma party in order to create an alliance.[56] In February, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached out to Otzma Yehudit in an attempt to try and get the party to run on a list with Tkuma and The Jewish Home, leading to criticism from opposition Knesset members.[57] The chairman of Tkuma, Bezalel Smotrich, responded by saying that the Likud should merge with Otzma Yehudit.[58] Negotiations for a joint list with Tkuma ended on 11 February 2019,[59] and Otzma Yehudit indicated it would run with another party instead.[60] On 20 February 2019, Otzma Yehudit and The Jewish Home reached a deal that would give Otzma Yehudit the 5th and 8th seats on a technical bloc.[61] On 21 February 2019, the party announced that their candidates for the list would be Michael Ben-Ari and Itamar Ben-Gvir.[62] On 17 March 2019, Michael Ben-Ari was banned from running for the Knesset ahead of the 2019 Israeli legislative election.[63] In response, Ben-Ari stated: "We will win. This is not the end... We will put an end to the judicial junta."[64]

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's role in brokering the deal with Jewish Home was widely condemned; AIPAC and the American Jewish Committee preemptively announced that even if Otzma Yehudit entered the government, they would not meet with them.[65] The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, noted that "AIPAC has a long-standing policy not to meet with members of this racist and reprehensible party".[66]

History[edit]

2016[edit]

In June 2016, Otzma Yehudit organized a march from 'Ara to Ar'ara.[67][68] The march started in Ara due to it being the village which Nashat Melhem was from, who was a terrorist responsible for an attack in Tel Aviv.[69] The application for the march was originally denied; however, after an appeal to the Supreme Court, the march was allowed to go on, though they had to respect the conditions set by the police.[67]

2017[edit]

On 19 July, the party requested a permit from police to organize a march in Umm al-Fahm.[70][71] On 21 July, the party distributed food to security forces in Jerusalem.[72] On 23 July, dozens of party members demonstrated outside of the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem in the evening; the demonstrators called upon Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to resign.[73] On the evening of 24 July, their party blockaded a junction just outside Nablus, preventing both the entry and exit of Palestinians.[8] On 24 September, the party's planned conference in Lod was cancelled by orders of the Lod City Hall; it was instead held in Gandhi Garden.[74][75] After it was rescheduled, the party's leader, Michael Ben-Ari, released a video calling for Arabs to leave Israel and move to Arab countries. The conference was condemned by the Coalition Against Racism in Israel.[76] On 1 November, the party put up billboards for the memorial of Meir Kahane, though the billboards were taken down after pressure from left-wing lawmakers, as well as NGOs.[15] On 4 December, in protest of stone throwing against a group of Jewish children,[77] activists from the party announced that they would hike to the same cave that the kids went to.[78][79]

2018[edit]

On 9 April 2018, it was reported that the police withdrew their permit for them to demonstrate in Umm al-Fahm; however, under the Eldad Yaniv precedent, they would continue with their protest which was planned a year earlier[70] without police permission.[80][81] The protest occurred on 10 April, with dozens of activists attending; however, the police blocked the party from entering the city, although Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said that they were allowed to earlier that morning.[82] Party leaders, Michael Ben Ari, Baruch Marzel, Zvi Sukkot, and Itamar Ben Gvir were arrested en route.[83][84] The protest included leader of Lehava, Benzi Gopstein.[31] On 6 August, the party received permission to march in Umm al-Fahm after petitioning the Supreme Court.[85][86] The march occurred without incident on 9 August.[87]

Controversies[edit]

In December 2012, Otzma LeYisrael ran an ad campaign on billboards and bus advertisements that included words in Arabic such as "equality" and "taxes". One of the signs was banned by the Israeli Central Elections Committee on the ground that the ad was seen as racist. The ad shows the Arabic word "loyalty" with the Hebrew caption "Because without duties, there are no rights".[88] This ban was later reversed by the Supreme Court of Israel.[89]

Aryeh King, a Ma'ale HaZeitim resident, ran as number four on the party list for the 2013 Knesset elections. Later that year, he was elected into the Jerusalem municipal council, where he became Chairman of the Environment Committee, Deputy Chairperson of the Emergency and Security Committee, and a council member on the Regional Planning and Building Committee. While holding these positions, in January 2014, he distributed thousands of flyers to the Arab residents of Jerusalem asking them to leave the Land of Israel in exchange for a negotiated amount, due to the Jewish rights to the land, as written down in the Torah and acknowledged in the Koran.[90][91] In the 2018 municipal elections, King's United party again won two seats in the Jerusalem Municipality. [92]

Ein L'zion Project[edit]

On 14 January 2018, the party announced its plan to catch individuals throwing rocks at Jews in the West Bank, and to seek prosecution of the rock throwers after submitting evidence to the police. The party planned to film evidence through the use of drones piloted by trained volunteers. Training volunteers, and buying the drones was paid through via a successful crowd funding campaign.[93][94][95][96][97]

On 31 January 2018, the party succeed in recording rock throwers attacking Jewish youth who were planting trees at a Tu Bishvat festival.[97] On 1 February 2019, during a stone-throwing incident outside the Adei Ad settlement during the unrest following a death in the village of al-Mughayyir the previous week, "over a hundred residents" of the village were photographed by an Otzma Yehudit photographer as part of the project, with the intention of handing it over to the IDF and the police, alongside an appeal to "liquidate the terrorist nest" of the neighboring village.[98]

Leaders[edit]


Leader Took office Left office
Michael Ben Ari.jpg Michael Ben-Ari 2012 Incumbent

Election results[edit]

Knesset[edit]

Election year Party Leader # of overall votes % of overall vote # of overall seats
won
+/- Notes Gov?
2013[45][99] Michael Ben-Ari 64,782 1.76
0 / 120
Decrease 2 First election, party leaves National Union N/A
2015[100] Michael Ben-Ari 125,158 2.97
0 / 120
- Party list ran as part of Yachad N/A

Knesset members[edit]

Knesset Members Notes
18th Aryeh Eldad,[101] Michael Ben-Ari[26] Party breaks away from the National Union in 2012

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External links[edit]