New Right party leader Naftali Bennett accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of trying to “take down” his and other smaller right-wing factions in order to shore up support for Likud before election day on April 9, in an interview broadcast Saturday.
Though Likud, the other right-wing parties and the two ultra-Orthodox parties are forecast in all major surveys to secure a majority of Knesset seats between, and thus form the next government under Netanyahu’s leadership, Netanyahu implored right-wing voters on Friday and again on Saturday night to back Likud, warning if it is outscored by political rival Benny Gantz’s Blue and White by four or more seats it will not head the next coalition.
The Netanyahu strategy is seen as a risky one, as increased backing for Likud at the expense of his smaller political allies could leave one or more of them below the electoral threshold, and thus could deprive him of a majority.
Asked about Netanyahu’s new campaign, Bennett told Channel 12 news it was “meant to take down all the small right-wing parties.”
Bennett, who is education minister, claimed Netanyahu’s strategy was geared toward forming a so-called unity government between Likud and Blue and White ahead of the expected release of US President Donald Trump’s plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
“Netanyahu is right about one thing — there is a danger,” Bennett continued. “There is a danger we’ll get Bogie as defense minister,” he said, referring to Blue and White member and former Likud minister Moshe Ya’alon.
Bennett also ruled out joining a Gantz-led coalition, saying “I will not crown a left-wing government.”
New Right is currently polling around six seats, two more than the minimum needed to enter the 120-seat Knesset.
In a separate interview with the network, Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman dismissed Netanyahu’s warning the Israeli right “is in danger” of losing its hold on power after elections, noting the advantage right-wing parties have in the polls.
“This prime minister claims he’s being robbed while he’s the one doing the robbing,” Liberman said.
“Once, it’s the Arabs are flocking to the polls and another time, right-wing rule is in danger. There is no danger,” he added, referring to a video message Netanyahu put out in the 2015 election.
“This is a return to the same trick.”
Liberman said he intended to recommend Netanyahu be tasked with forming a government, but said “there is a long road” until he agrees to join a coalition. He conditioned his support for entering a Netanyahu-led coalition on not “surrendering to terror” and passing legislation regulating exemptions to mandatory military service for seminary students, which is opposed by ultra-Orthodox parties.
Liberman served as defense minister under Netanyahu before resigning in November in protest of an unofficial ceasefire deal with the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group to end a flare-up in violence.
A number of surveys have put Yisrael Beytenu below the 3.25 percent of the total vote needed to enter Knesset, but Liberman said the party would get “at least” seven to eight seats.
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, whose center-right Kulanu party is polling at four to five seats, accused Netanyahu of “spin.”
“[Netanyahu] is going to form the next government. He has four more seats than Gantz. I’m telling you this from internal polls,” he told Channel 12.
Meanwhile, Labor head Avi Gabbay told the channel that Netanyahu must not serve as the country’s next prime minister due to his disdain for the weaker members of society.
“It is important to us that there is change — to replace Netanyahu who despises the weak and looks at the weak as if they are nothing,” he said.
“This is our big task, and that’s what we need to focus on. That’s why we have to make sure that no vote from our camp goes to Netanyahu,” Gabbay added.