Confidants of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have recently been holding talks with the head of the extreme-right Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party, Itamar Ben-Gvir, in order to safeguard a Knesset majority of 61 MKs for the right-wing bloc in the upcoming March 2 election, a third national ballot in less than one year.
In the run-up to the September 2019 elections, Netanyahu announced an all-out war against Otzma Yehudit, to sway right-wing voters away from the party.
He said a vote for Ben-Gvir would effectively be a loss of votes for the right-wing bloc because of its negligent chances of passing the electoral threshold of 3.25%, which means those votes would ultimately not count for anything.
Despite these efforts, Otzma Yehudit won 84,000 votes, although quite far from entering Knesset, it was nonetheless a sizeable achievement.
Ben-Gvir, a follower of the racist rabbi Meir Kahane, who was banned from the Knesset before his murder in New York in 1990, was lifted from the unsavory political fringe by Netanyahu in his efforts to secure votes even from that constituency.
As the next ballot approaches, Netanyahu's inner circle has realized there is no chance of convincing Ben-Gvir to relinquish his bid for Knesset.
Therefore, several of Netanyahu's advisers have been in touch with the Otzma Yehudit leader, trying to formulate a plan to help his party over the electoral threshold.
Among some options discussed was a request by Ben-Gvir that the prime minister appeal to senior rabbis within the religious-Zionist movement to legitimize his party and express public support for its success in the elections.
Another possibility was for Netanyahu to turn to the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party and request it secure the vote of one of their own communities for Otzma Yehudit. Ultra-Orthodox voters are believed to cast their votes according to the instructions of their rabbis.
Netanyahu's camp have asked in return that if Otzama Yehudit's requests are met, the party forfeits a run in a potential fourth election unless they succeed in entering the Knesset in March.
Ben Gvir and his party have not yet fully responded to this condition, but they did not reject the offer outright.
First published: 13:03 , 02.12.20