Smotrich, Ben-Gvir celebrate biggest victory for religious nationalists in Israel’s history

“Today, the Religious Zionist Party made history with the biggest win by a national religious party since the country was founded,” Religious Zionism party leader Bezalel Smotrich enthused.

By Atara Beck, World Israel News 

According to the exit polls on Tuesday night, Opposition leader and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to have won the 2022 election with an estimated 61-62 Knesset seats out of 120 for the right-wing bloc. However, the numbers could change by morning.

After the 2015 election, for example, Israelis went to sleep with the news that Labor and Likud were neck and neck. By morning, Netanyahu’s Likud had a resounding win.

But no matter what may happen overnight, the biggest winner this time around is the Religious Zionism party, led by Betzalel Smotrich, which won 14-15 seats according to the exit polls. The headquarters of Otzma Yehudit, the party running on Religious Zionism’s slate that is led by the hugely popular Itamar Ben-Gvir, broke out in huge celebrations as supporters danced and waved Israeli flags.

“Today, the Religious Zionist Party made history with the biggest win by a national religious party since the country was founded,” Smotrich enthused at a post-election press conference.

Religious Zionism is the rebranded name of a joint list that competed in the 2021 elections, which included the Religious Zionist Party, Otzma Yehudit and Noam. By comparison, it won six seats in the 2021 election.

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Firebrand Ben-Gvir has been tough on terror, which appears to be the main reason for Religious Zionism’s historic rise. The left has labeled him a racist and a danger to democracy, but the leader of Otzma Yehudit – Hebrew for ‘Jewish Strength – denies the allegation. “I do not hate Arabs, I hate terrorists,” he recently told JNS in an interview.

In February this year, he set up a symbolic parliamentary office in front of the firebombed home of a Jewish family in the eastern Jerusalem Shimon HaTzadik (Sheikh Jarrah) neighborhood, refusing to leave the area until police stepped up security for Jewish residents.

And just last month, he drew his personal firearm after he came under a barrage of rocks during Arab rioting in eastern Jerusalem.

As deadly attacks against IDF soldiers and civilians have been on the rise in recent months, this apparent courge and determination to fight terrorist threats and protect innocent Israelis has clearly made the difference among voters.