TEL AVIV – Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) on Monday hit back against a wave of condemnation of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s push for a merger between the national-religious Jewish Home party and the extremist Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party, saying there was no such outcry when unions were made with Arab parties who had been outspoken supporters of terror.
According to Edelstein, the discussion on the merger was an “important” one but also hypocritical.
“If we want to see a Knesset without any radical representatives, we need to start with [Arab nationalist party] Balad, whose [former] MK is sitting in prison for aiding terrorists — and then there’s Hanin Zoabi, whom we don’t even need to discuss,” said Edelstein.
Zoabi (Joint List) is known for her vehemently anti-Israel rhetoric, charging Israel with killing Palestinians with impunity, referring to IDF soldiers as “murderers” and calling on Palestinians to march to Jerusalem “in the millions.”
Former MK Basel Ghattas (Joint List) is serving a two-year sentence after he was caught smuggling cell phones to Hamas terror convicts. He also served as a go-between for imprisoned terrorists and their contacts on the outside.
“I’ve always said that, before anything else, we need to deal with our own radicals, which is why I, when it was necessary, said how I felt about Otzma Yehudit — and my views were not particularly positive,” Edelstein said.
“We need to decide whether the Knesset is open to everyone who has a voter base which sends him to the Knesset, or if we need to put boundaries. If and when we decide to put up boundaries, I’ll be ready to continue the discussion about the radical right, but right now the situation is that Balad, which doesn’t recognize the State of Israel, is part of the Knesset,” he concluded.
His comments echoed those of Netanyahu, who on Thursday lashed out at the left for its “hypocrisy” in allowing Islamists to enter the Knesset.
“What hypocrisy and double standards by the left,” he wrote on Facebook. “They’re condemning [the formation of] a right-wing majority bloc with right-wing parties, while the left acted to bring extreme Islamists into the Knesset to create a majority bloc.”
Otzma Yehudit is led by followers of the American-born rabbi Meir Kahane, whose controversial party Kach was deemed a terror group. Before his assassination, Kahane called for the annexation of the West Bank and the expulsion of the Arabs living there.
The merger was ostensibly a bid to prevent right-wing votes from going to waste in the April 9 elections, since parties need to clear a 3.25 percent threshold to be allowed into the Knesset.
The move drew widespread condemnation from political rivals and Jewish groups, both in Israel and overseas.