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May 9, 2023 8:03 am

Otzma Yehudit Drops Boycott of Knesset Votes

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The Jewish Home Party, the current iteration of what used to be Israel’s National Religious Party, votes on a pre-election alliance with Otzma Yehudit in Petach Tikvah, Feb 20, 2019. Photo: Yehuda Haim/Flash90. – Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit Party announced on Tuesday an end to its boycott of Knesset votes following the targeted killing of three top Islamic Jihad terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

“Following the adoption of our position and a transition from containment to attack and targeted assassinations of Islamic Jihad leaders, we will return to vote with the government,” said a statement from Otzma Yehudit.

The Israel Defense Forces killed the three men in airstrikes across Gaza early on Tuesday morning, following a month of intermittent confrontations with terrorists in the Palestinian enclave.

The IDF identified the targets of the operation as Khalil Bahitini, PIJ’s commander in northern Gaza; Jahed Ahnam, a senior member of the group’s “military” council; and Tarek Azaldin, who directed its activities in Judea and Samaria.

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Israel also struck 10 sites belonging to PIJ, including weapons manufacturing facilities and depots.

The military dubbed the campaign “Operation Shield and Arrow.”

Ben-Gvir said in a statement: “I congratulate the prime minister on the proactive operation in Gaza. It’s a good start, the time has come to change our policy.”

He added on Twitter: “It’s time.”

Ben-Gvir on Friday slammed the government’s decision to hand over the bodies of three terrorists to the Palestinian Authority, describing Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s decision as “a grave mistake that will cost us dearly.”

“It is not too late to implement a powerful and offensive security policy,” said Ben-Gvir. “Otzma Yehudit will continue to be absent from [Knesset] votes until the Israeli government changes course and begins to uphold the policy for which it was elected.”

In response, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party issued a statement reiterating that “the prime minister, defense minister, the IDF and the security forces are the ones who manage the complex security events facing the State of Israel. The prime minister decides which parties are involved in the discussions, and if this is not acceptable to Minister Ben-Gvir, he does not have to remain in the government.”

A senior source close to Netanyahu shortly thereafter told the media that the premier is willing to explore bringing National Unity Party head Benny Gantz into the coalition.

Last week’s rocket barrage from the Gaza Strip sparked the intra-coalition fighting, with Ben-Gvir‘s Otzma Yehudit announcing that the party’s MKs would boycott coalition votes after he wasn’t invited to a situational assessment meeting during the conflagration.

Ben-Gvir told reporters at the time: “Prime Minister [Netanyahu], if you don’t want Otzma Yehudit, you’re invited to fire us. If you don’t want a fully right-wing government, you’re welcome to send us home.”

Tensions within Israel’s governing coalition had escalated on Monday as Knesset committees chaired by lawmakers from the Otzma Yehudit Party canceled meetings.


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