Netanyahu: Bennett has cut a deal with Lapid to be PM of a left-wing government

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett gives a statement to the press on April 21, 2021. (Screen capture/Channel 13)
Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett gives a statement to the press on April 21, 2021. (Screen capture/Channel 13)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responds to Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett’s address, with a speech of his own in which he says Bennett has already cut a deal with Lapid to be prime minister of a left-wing government.

He says Bennett would be a right-wing “head of a pin” of such a government that would be mostly comprised of the left (actually, in the most likely scenario, there would be 20 seats for the right from Yamina, New Hope, Yisrael Beytenu; 25 for the center from Yesh Atid, Blue and White; and 13 for the left from Labor and Meretz).

Yamina, he notes, only won seven seats in last month’s election, yet Bennett’s “unbridled personal ambition” to be prime minister is blinding him to the “destruction” he will inflict on the Israeli right.

“The majority of the public wants me to lead the country as head of a right-wing government,” Netanyahu claims, pointing to the fact that right-wing parties won a majority in the Knesset. He neglects to mention that three of those right-wing parties — New Hope, Yamina and Yisrael Beytenu — campaigned on replacing Netanyahu as premier.

Netanyahu says he is constantly hearing messages of support from the public and thanks them for their well-wishes.

״You are doing everything to not create a right-wing government,” Netanyahu says, addressing Bennett. “You’re prepared to do anything to become prime minister with just seven seats. And the only way for you to do that is to head a left-wing government of Lapid, Meretz and Labor with the support of the Joint List.” Interestingly, Netanyahu does not list the Ra’am party, which Likud has been wooing, among those potential partners.

“You call [what you’re negotiating with Lapid] a unity government?”

“What misrepresentation. What a transparent effort to fool the public. It’s a government with 50 left-wing and extreme left-wing MKs, together with you, a pinhead, with seven seats. There’s been nothing like this in the history of the state. It’s a spit in the face of democracy, a spit in the face of the promises that you made not to sit with Lapid,” he continues, noting that Bennett even signed a declaration on live television before the election in which he vowed not to sit in a government under Lapid.

Netanyahu notes that Bennett said before the election that it would be “undemocratic and immoral” to demand the premiership with less than 10 seats, as he is currently doing in negotiations with Lapid.

“How can one take what you say seriously when you are tricking the public?” Netanyahu asks.

“You call yourself Yamina (Right) but you are actually heading Smola (Left),” he snipes.

Netanyahu then goes on to quote verbatim a statement his Likud party released earlier today: “[A Bennett-Lapid unity government] will not be able to withstand even one day of international pressure against the settlements and IDF soldiers, along with the race toward dangerous agreements with Iran. It will not even be able to promote a single right-wing reform.”

“You didn’t hold negotiations,” says Netanyahu, addressing Bennett directly now. “You only sought [an agreement that would allow you to be premier in a rotational agreement].”

“While the mandate was with us, you sealed a deal with Lapid,” he charges. News reports earlier this evening say, by contrast, that Bennett and Lapid are at odds over the terms of a potential coalition alliance.

Netanyahu makes another plea for Bennett to back a Shas-publicized proposal to hold snap, direct elections for the premiership, claiming this is the way to ensure that a right-wing government will be formed.

However, such a scenario would leave the numbers in the Knesset as they are and Netanyahu would still be forced to convince Religious Zionism and Ra’am to cooperate — which they are currently unwilling to do.

“Enough games, enough tricking the public,” Netanyahu says. “You are what’s causing [Likud] to fail. If you really wanted [a right-wing government], you’d back direct elections [for the premiership].”

Later, while answering questions from the press, Netanyahu jokes wryly that maybe he’ll consider allowing Bennett to enjoy the Balfour Street prime minister’s residence for a weekend, to satisfy his “lust for power.”

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