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Otzma Yehudit [Jewish Might]

Otzma Yehudit was resurrected by the followers of Brooklyn-born Rabbi Meir Kahane, who advocated the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and led his followers in many violent incursions against Palestinian Arab communities, in Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territories. The extremist party has championed chauvinistic, racist and violent ideals that since its formation in 2012.

The Kach party, banned in Israel four years after its formation in 1984, was even then not rejected for its “racist policies” as many in the media are now suggesting. Kahane was assassinated in 1990, but his ideas lived on, expanding along with Jewish settlements to finally capture mainstream imagination. The party operated outside the confines of the Israeli government agenda, thus it was forced out, but its violent ideas persisted in the Knesset.

Two of the most important elements of the Otzma’s party platform, as outlined on its website, relate to its view of the Arab and Palestinian population in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Otzma Yehudit’s constitution defines Israel as a “Jewish state in its character, its national symbols and its legal values”, also defining Hebrew as Israel’s “only official language”. Otzma Yehudit’s platform calls for a war against the “enemies of Israel” that must “be total, without negotiations, without concessions and without compromises”.

The next clause of party’s platform states: “Otzma Yehudit will work to remove the enemies of Israel from our country. A national authority for encouraging emigration will be established. The Jewish People returned to Zion, and the enemies of Israel will return to their countries of origin.”

The platform also calls for “the restoration of Israeli sovereignty and ownership” over the Temple Mount, and says that the government should be “a Jewish democracy, which protects the values of the nation-state of the Jews as a value that supersedes all universal values.” The fringe party’s mission to “restore the sovereignty and ownership over the Temple Mount” – meaning, Al-Aqsa Mosque – is consistent with the views of most Israelis, religious and secular alike. Knesset members have made that call repeatedly, often from Al-Aqsa itself, while surrounded by scores of soldiers and armed Jewish settlers.

The party also calls for the imposition of Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, but its platform does not talk about what civil or democratic rights will be afforded Palestinians in the West Bank within a greater Israel. Otzma is not the only party to propose this. The National Union party, which is also part of the current political union with Bayit Yehudi and currently has two MKs in the Knesset, proposed such a policy in 2017.

The alliance between Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, Rafi Peretz’s far-right Jewish Home, and Otzma Yehudit, was struck on 20 February 2019. Immediately after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu forged an alliance with the fringe political group, Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power), a widespread outrage ensued. The anger did not emanate only from the Center, Left and Arab parties, but from some in the Right as well. Even the pro-Israel lobby in the U.S., known for its hawkish political views, spoke out against the sinister union. “The views of Otzma Yehudit”, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) tweeted, “are reprehensible. They do not reflect the core values that are the very foundation of the State of Israel.”

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) does not normally comment on political parties and candidates during an election. But with the announcement that Otzma Yehudit, a new political party formed by longtime followers of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, is now seeking election to the Knesset, AJC felt compelled to speak out on 21 February 2019 . "The views of Otzma Yehudit are reprehensible. They do not reflect the core values that are the very foundation of the State of Israel. The party might conceivably gain enough votes to enter the next Knesset, and potentially even become part of the governing coalition. Historically, the views of extremist parties, reflecting the extreme left or the extreme right, have been firmly rejected by mainstream parties, even if the electoral process of Israel's robust democracy has enabled their presence, however small, in the Knesset."



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