Democratic senator warns Netanyahu against forming gov’t with ‘extremist’ lawmaker

Menendez reportedly told Netanyahu he has “serious concerns” over a possible partnership with “extremist and polarizing individuals like Ben Gvir.”

By Adina Katz, World Israel News

Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) has warned former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to include “right-wing extremists” in a Likud-led coalition, Axios reported.

Itamar Ben-Gvir, chairman of the Otzma Yehudit party, is running together with Religious Zionism in the upcoming November elections. Reportedly due to Ben-Gvir’s surge in popularity, Religious Zionism would win at least 12 seats.

Recently, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu met with Religious Zionism head Bezalel Smotrich and Ben-Gvir, urging them to run together in order to help the former prime minister form a coalition, Hebrew media reported. Without Otzma Yehudit, Smotrich’s party would likely not meet the electoral threshold and the votes would be wasted.

Netanyahu appealed for unity among the Right in a short but emphatic video message in August, saying, “We can’t take any chances.

Should Netanyahu succeed in forming a coalition government, Ben-Gvir would reportedly become a minister.

During a trip to Israel last month, Menendez told Netanyahu that the inclusion of “extremist” and “polarizing” right-wing parties could harm U.S.-Israel relations.

According to Axios, quoting sources, Menendez told Netanyahu he has “serious concerns” over a possible partnership with “extremist and polarizing individuals like Ben Gvir.”

Menendez did not back down from the issue even after Netanyahu expressed his irritation regarding the senator’s advice.

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“People who were in the room saw how pissed off Bibi got” with Menendez’s comments, one of the sources said, Axios reported.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price told Axios the Biden administration is not weighing in on domestic politics in Israel. the report added.