Ex-Likud minister: Netanyahu is willing ‘to pay any price’ to return to power

Tal Schneider is a Political Correspondent at The Times of Israel

Former minister Dan Meridor attends a conference at Reichman University in Herzliya, June 22, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Former minister Dan Meridor attends a conference at Reichman University in Herzliya, June 22, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Former justice minister Dan Meridor says that incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu puts his own ambition for power and rule above all.

“He is not a racist, but he is willing to cause damage to Israeli society in order to go back to the prime ministership,” Meridor tells The Times of Israel.

The former Likud minister cites the extreme promises Netanyahu made in coalition agreements, such as legislation that would allow businesses to refuse service to individuals, including members of the LGBT community, if it offends their religious sensibilities. Netanyahu later said he would not support any such discrimination.

“Netanyahu is doing here something that is not his worldview, but he’s willing to pay any price because of his goal to return as a prime minister — and maybe also connected to his criminal trial,” suggests Meridor. “If it were me, I would not enter any coalition with politicians who are racists. I would prefer even to hold another election over forming such a government.”

Meridor says that today’s public discourse represents a “profound change in the values of Israeli society,” blaming Netanyahu for normalizing the racist rhetoric and policies of Otzma Yehudit leader MK Itamar Ben Gvir.

“For many years, politicians who made these kinds of statements were outside the consensus,” says Meridor. “Netanyahu broke this pattern, because he wanted their votes and support — and now he is joining together with [Religious Zionism MK Bezalel] Smotrich, who said his wife will not share a hospital room with an Arab woman, and with Ben Gvir, who speaks about the deportation of Arabs.”

Meridor says he does not believe that all Likud MKs agree with such moves, “but they do not speak out.”

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