A perhaps surprising issue of contention has emerged in the upcoming Israeli elections as smaller right-wing parties scramble for seats in the Jewish state’s Knesset: circumcision.
The Jewish Press reports that Naftali Bennett’s free market New Right party and the religious right party Jewish Home have aligned to launch a joint campaign against the libertarian Zehut party, which they believe will take support away from their parties. In particular, they have targeted Gadi Wilcherski, a candidate in the un-winnable 18th slot on the Zehut electoral list, for his opposition to circumcision. Wilcherski had previously released a video urging parents not to circumcise newborn children.
Wilcherski was elected through Zehut’s online open primary, which aimed to increase party transparency by allowing anyone to win a slot providing they directed enough of their supporters to the online vote. This resulted in some of the lower positions on the list being won by comedic candidates. However, since then, Wilcherski has become a fixture of Zehut events, campaigning alongside party leader Moshe Feiglin, a former hardline member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud who was later forced out of the party.
As well as taking support away from the right, Feiglin is also hoping to snatch votes from the left and center through his platform of marijuana legalization. Unlike most small right-wing parties, Zehut has not ruled out forming a coalition government with Netanyahu’s chief rival, General Benny Gantz, the leader of the centrist Blue and White alliance.
Netanyahu is also reportedly frustrated about Zehut’s rise, which he fears will deny seats to Likud and New Right while not passing the threshold to gain seats itself. In an election as close and contentious as this one, that could well make the difference between a nationalist government and a leftist one.