Under the new moniker of Otzma Yehudit, the followers of Rabbi Meir Kahane are ostensibly no longer a bunch of wild weeds or a gang of fascist and racist thugs operating under the radar among their target audience. They are now at the forefront of a new Israeli discourse unlike anything the country has heard since the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 or Baruch Goldstein’s massacre of Muslim worshippers the preceding year in Hebron. It was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who granted them this legitimacy, letting the genie out of the bottle with his own bare hands.
On Feb. 3, it was the Likud, not Netanyahu in name, who called on the parties on the right to join forces with Otzma Yehudit. Netanyahu was prudent about that — fearing general public reaction to the ultra-nationalistic group — but once the unification between the national-religious HaBayit HaYehudi and Otzma Yehudit was finalized, Netanyahu returned to his old ways. Even the harsh reaction by his longtime admirers in AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, has not deterred him.