Report: US officials say the administration is unlikely to work with Itamar Ben Gvir
The US administration is likely to boycott far-right politician Itamar Ben Gvir if he participates in Israel’s next government. report Wednesday on the Axios news website.
Citing two unnamed U.S. officials, the report said the administration would work with the expected future government of Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, but may decide to refrain from dealing directly with the far-right extremist.
The site also reported that US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan warned President Isaac Herzog during a visit to Washington last week that the US could refuse to cooperate with “specific politicians”, possibly referring to Ben Gwire.
After winning 14 seats in Tuesday’s election with 87% of the vote, the far-right Religious Zionism-Otzma Yehudite alliance led by Bezalel Smotrich and Ben Gvir was expected to be a senior partner in Netanyahu’s future government.
Reacting to the report, Ben Gvir’s Otzma Yehudite faction accused the Israeli left of being involved.
“The undemocratic campaign being pushed by the Israeli left continues,” the statement said, though it did not clarify how the left was involved in the apparent statements by US officials. “We know very well who in Israel is trying to push the Americans to interfere with Israeli democracy and what their interests are.”
Ben Gvir is a self-proclaimed disciple of extremist rabbi and former MK Meir Kahane, whose Kach party was banned and designated a terrorist group in both Israel and the US in the 1980s. Like the late Kahane, Ben Gvir was previously convicted of supporting a terrorist organization, though he claims he has become more moderate in recent years and does not hold the same beliefs as Kach’s founder.
Meanwhile, former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk said Wednesday that a future Netanyahu government could have a “difficult” relationship with the Biden administration.
Indyk served as ambassador in 1995-1997 and again in 2000-2001. He was also the US envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks during the presidency of Barack Obama, which did not yield results.
“The Biden administration doesn’t have a good history with Netanyahu, and if he gets far-right extremists in his government and in his cabinet, I think we’re in for a rocky road,” Indyk said. The remarks broadcast on Channel 12.
Obama, Netanyahu and their respective staffs clashed regularly during their eight years in office as Obama sought diplomatic deals between Israel and Palestine, as well as between Iran and world powers, both of which were largely opposed by the then-prime minister. However, Biden’s relationship with Netanyahu is warmer.
– Ambassador Tom Nides (@USAmbIsrael) November 2, 2022
The current US ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides, chose to praise the Israeli electorate for the large turnout, the highest turnout since 2015, while adding that: the votes have been counted.”
Around 500,000 “double envelopes” containing soldiers, prisoners, diplomats and people who failed to reach their designated polling stations have yet to be counted as of 11pm on Wednesday.
“I look forward to continuing to work with the Israeli government on our shared interests and values,” he said in a statement.
As the final Knesset election ballots are counted, all signs point to a decisive victory for opposition leader Netanyahu and his alliance of right-wing, far-right and religious parties that would end the political crisis that has seen five. general elections, which were not held until four years later.
After counting about 86% of the votes, the alliance of parties loyal to Netanyahu is expected to receive 65 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, a comfortable majority.
Jacob Magid and Michael Bachner contributed to this report.
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