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Religious Zionism Party (formerly Tkuma)

Tkuma (Hebrew: תְּקוּמָה, Resurrection) is an Orthodox Jewish, far-right political party in Israel established in 1998 when Hanan Porat and Zvi Hendel left the National Religious Party. Together with Moledet and Herut, they formed the National Union, which won four seats in the 1999 elections.

For the 2003 elections, Yisrael Beiteinu joined the National Union (though Herut left) and, with its increased support, won seven seats and was included in Ariel Sharon’s coalition.

Because of tensions over the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip (Tkuma was ideologically opposed, and Hendel lived in the Gaza settlement of Ganei Tal), National Union ministers Binyamin Elon and Avigdor Lieberman were sacked, and the party left the coalition. However, the National Union was bolstered by the addition of Ahi, which had split off from the National Religious Party when they decided to remain in the coalition.

Before the 2006 elections, Yisrael Beiteinu left the alliance to fight the election alone. However, at the last minute, the National Religious Party decided to join the coalition, which won nine seats, two of which were allocated to Tkuma and taken by Hendel and Uri Ariel.

In 2008, the party announced a merger with Ahi, the National Religious Party, and Moledet to form a new right-wing party, which was later named the Jewish Home. However, around half the former Tkuma members subsequently left the new party to re-establish Tkuma and rejoin the National Union alongside Moledet, Hatikva, and Eretz Yisrael Shelanu.

In 2012, the party opted to run as part of the Jewish Home list for the 2013 elections. The joint list won 12 seats, four of which were nominated by the Tkuma central committee. The party decided to continue its alliance with the Jewish Home for the 2015 Knesset elections, but the party won only eight seats in that election.

Tkuma opposes territorial concessions. Some members support annexing the entire West Bank. However, the official policy of the Jewish Home parliamentary faction, of which it is part, supports only the annexation of Area C of the West Bank.

In 2019, Bezalel Smotrich took over the party leadership and decided to run in the elections with the Yamina Party. Before the 2021 election, he renamed the party the Religious Zionism Party. He announced it would run on its own and focus on “uniting religious Zionism, and chiefly to be the ideological right-wing voice in the Knesset.”

Before the 2022 election, Benjamin Netanyahu brokered a deal for the party to run together with Itamar Ben Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit to assure they would win seats in the Knesset. Individually, they were less likely to succeed and would deprive Netanyahu of the necessary votes to be prime minister. The Noam Party also joined the list, headed by Smotrich, with Ben Gvir getting the second spot. 

The Times of Israel summarized the most prominent policy positions of the party: “encouraging Arab citizens of Israel to emigrate; annexing the West Bank without affording Palestinians the right to vote or other civil rights; imposing the death penalty for terrorists; using live fire against Palestinian rioters; immunity from prosecution for IDF soldiers for military actions they carry out; overhauling the legal system, crimping the High Court’s ability to strike down legislation and giving the government the ability to pack the bench with ideological compatriots.”

Just before the election, Ben-Gvir said he would introduce legislation to cancel Netanyahu’s graft trial.

The party did better than expected, winning nearly 11% of the vote and 14 seats, making it the third-largest party in the 25th Knesset. The likelihood that the party will be part of a governing coalition under Netanyahu has alarmed many Israelis, Jews abroad, and international leaders.

Ben-Gvir justified the fears of many inside and outside Israel when he gave a speech praising Rabbi Meir Kahane on November 10, 2022. He attracted boos when he said, “It is no secret that today I am not Rabbi Kahane and I do not support the deportation of all Arabs, and I will not enact laws for separate beaches.” He won back the crowd when he said, “we will act and do everything to expel terrorists from the country for the sake of the Jewish character of Israel, for the settlements and its Jewish identity.”

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said, “Celebrating the legacy of a terrorist organization is abhorrent; there is no other word for it. It is abhorrent. And we remain concerned, as we said before, by the legacy of Kahane Chai and the continued use of rhetoric among violent, right-wing extremists.”

During the consultation with President Isaac Herzog after the election to determine who would be given the first opportunity to form a government (Herzog chose Netanyahu), Herzog told Ben-Gvir, “You and your party have a certain image that has elicited concern in many places regarding your attitude toward Arabs and Muslims in our country.” Ben-Gvir said, “I’m not a racist, you know that perfectly well. I love my people and want things to be good for the Arabs in Umm el-Fahm and Nazareth and to have order. When there’s no order there, we don’t have order either. I don’t make generalizations about all the Arabs.”

Concerned with past statements Ben-Gvir has made about the Temple Mount, Herzog said, “The Muslim world asks me about the Temple Mount. That topic is sensitive.”

“We aren’t saying that the Temple Mount isn’t sacred to others, but it must be remembered that the Temple Mount is our heart, our history,” Ben-Gvir replied. “I ask you, sir, when you speak with all the officials, to remember and recall that the Mount is sacred to the people of Israel too. We all oppose racism, and you cannot tell a Jew, ‘You can’t visit the Temple Mount because you’re Jewish.’”

News reports have suggested the Biden administration may boycott Ben-Gvir and Smotrich.

Sources: “Tkuma,” Wikipedia.
Raoul Wootliff, “Smotrich confirms he’ll split from Yamina and field independent run,” Times of Israel, (January 11, 2021).
Amy Spiro, “Two party primaries could shape Israel’s national political scene,” JewishInsider, (January 18, 2021).“Netanyahu brokers deal for far-right’s Smotrich, Ben Gvir to join forces in election,” Times of Israel, (August 26, 2022).
Jeremy Sharon, “Ben Gvir’s policy goals: Going to extremes even Europe’s far right won’t touch,” Times of Israel, (October 28, 2022).
“Ben Gvir says he’ll demand law that will cancel Netanyahu’s corruption trial,” Times of Israel, (October 30, 2022).
Barak Ravid, “U.S. unlikely to work with Jewish supremacist expected to be made Israeli minister,” Axios, (November 2, 2022).
“Israel Election: Meet the Extremist Lawmakers About to Join the Government,” Haaretz, (
Jeremy Sharon, “Ben Gvir hails racist Kahane, is booed for saying he doesn’t want to expel all Arabs,” Times of Israel, (November 10, 2022).
“Department Press Briefing,” U.S. Department of State, (November 10, 2022).