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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Far-right firebrand set to enter Israel parliament: exit polls

Itamar Ben-Gvir, leader of the far-right Jewish Power party, marches with supporters in Jerusalem [AFP]

Date of publication: 24 March, 2021

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Far-right candidate Itamar Ben-Gvir was on track to enter Israel's parliament after the country's fourth election in two years.

Far-right candidate Itamar Ben-Gvir, who once described a Jewish extremist who massacred 29 Palestinians as his "hero", was on track to enter Israel's parliament after Tuesday's election, exit polls showed.

Ben-Gvir is on the ticket of the Religious Zionism alliance, which exit polls project will win seven seats in the 120-member Israeli parliament, or Knesset.

The leader of the Jewish Power party has had many incarnations but key aspects of his ideology have remained constant.

He was inspired by the late extremist rabbi Meir Kahane, whose Kach movement wanted to expel Arab Israelis from the state.

Kahane, assassinated in New York in 1990, provided ideological inspiration for Baruch Goldstein, who massacred 29 Palestinian worshippers in Hebron in 1994.

Ben-Gvir had voiced admiration for Goldstein and hung a portrait of the convicted mass-murderer in his home.

His party also backs Israel's annexation of the entire occupied West Bank, which is home to some 2.8 million Palestinians.

Seeking to make up a potential loss of seats last year by defectors from his Likud party, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu helped orchestrate a new alliance of far-right religious nationalists.

The pact saw Jewish Home join forces with National Union, led by Betzalel Smotrich, and the Noam party.

Netanyahu has told Israeli media that Ben-Gvir will not get a cabinet position in his government, but would be part of his "coalition".

In pursuing a seat in parliament, Ben-Gvir is seeking to follow another Kahane disciple Michael Ben-Ari, in the Knesset from 2009 to 2013, who was banned from the legislature by the supreme court over his racist and extremist views.

While Ben-Gvir remains steadfast in his extremist views and has not disavowed his past support for Goldstein, he marginally distanced himself from Kahane during the campaign.

Ben-Gvir told the left-wing Haaretz newspaper last month that while he thought Kahane was "wonderful", he did not view himself as the late rabbi's successor and their ideologies were "different".

Agencies contributed to this report.

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