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UAE leader warns Netanyahu against partnering with Religious Zionism party, forming 'far-right' coalition

The winner of Israel’s Nov. 1 elections will receive the mandate to form Israel’s parliament, requiring a makeup of coalitions that form a 61-seat majority

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu meets with UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed in Tel Aviv, Sept. 16, 2022. (Photo: Benjamin Netanyahu/Twitter)

 The United Arab Emirates foreign minister reportedly warned Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu against including far-right lawmakers in any government he might form if he receives the mandate following Israel’s Nov. 1 elections.

According to a senior government official who is familiar with the matter, UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed, the UAE signatory of the 2020 Abraham Accords, warned Israeli officials of this form of alliance at a meeting in Israel last month.

Bezalel Smotrich, the head of the far-right Religious Zionism party, which is on track to pick up 12 to 14 seats in the Israeli parliament, seems to be one object of Bin Zayed’s warning – another is Itamar Ben Gvir. 

Smotrich has called for segregating Jewish and Arab mothers in separate maternity wards and has vowed to drive Israeli Arabs out of the country if he deems them not loyal enough to the state. 

Ben Gvir has been called “a threat to the future of Israel’s fragile democratic character” by the center-right Jerusalem Post’s editor-in-chief.

Bin Zayed warned that a “far-right” coalition would endanger Israel’s ties with the UAE and probably would negatively affect the entire construct of the Abraham Accords, established two years ago. For his part, Netanyahu assured the UAE foreign minister that he was handling the matter. In spite of the warning, bin Zayed and Netanyahu’s meeting reportedly was amicable; neither side has chosen to comment. 

The UAE leadership is not the first to caution Netanyahu against a political alliance with Ben Gvir. 

Last month, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, D-NJ, told the Israeli opposition leader in September that a parliament that includes far-right legislators could “harm U.S.-Israel bilateral relations,” according to Axios. Netanyahu reportedly became upset at Menendez’ comments. 

Last Tuesday, the contender for premier said he would not “bow [his] head” to U.S. lawmakers and announced that Ben Gvir would be a minister in any future Cabinet if the Likud were to win in the upcoming election.

Before the previous election, in an attempt to build a majority coalition, Netanyahu worked out a merger deal that inserted Ben Gvir’s extremist Otzma Yehudit party into the Knesset. He seemingly has worked to build a similar deal leading into the upcoming election.

Ben Gvir is No. 2 on the Religious Zionism slate, which makes him eligible to receive a senior Cabinet posting. Ben Gvir is a follower of the extremist rabbi and former MK Meir Kahane, whose Kach political party was banned and declared a terrorist group in the 1980s in both Israel and the U.S. Ben Gvir states he has become more moderate in recent years and no longer holds the same beliefs as the Kach founder.

Smotrich was seen as one of Israel’s most extremist lawmakers before Ben Gvir entered politics last year; he has a long history of remarks made against Arab Israelis and Palestinians.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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