Speaking just a few minutes after Yamina leader Naftali Bennett, Prime Minister Netanyahu accuses his right-wing rival of misleading the Israeli public in claiming that Netanyahu has no options to form a coalition.
He claims Bennett is instigating “the fraud of the century,” cheating voters and lying about the political reality, and says that the Yamina chief only cares about being prime minister, but can still be thwarted.
Netanyahu again floats his proposal for a government in which New Hope chief Gideon Sa’ar will serve as prime minister first, followed by himself and then Bennett. Sa’ar rejected such a government earlier today.
He also asserts that MKs have told him they will break with their parties to join with his right-wing religious bloc once Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid’s mandate to form a government ends, on Wednesday.
Netanyahu begins by saying that two million Israelis voted for him — either directly for Likud or for parties that back him as prime minister — “because of my loyalty to the Land of Israel, the State of Israel, the security of Israel and the future of Israel.
“They know my compass won’t malfunction,” he says in a first dig at Bennett.
Bennett is trying to fool the public, accusing others of spreading hatred and division, when he is the one spreading hatred and division, says Netanyahu.
He accuses Bennett of perpetrating “the fraud of the century,” recalling that Bennett signed a pledge just before the March 23 elections that he would not allow Yair Lapid to become prime minister, not even via rotation. “There is not a person in the land who would have voted for you had they known,” what Bennett had in mind, says Netanyahu.
He says that Bennett “flipped” immediately after the elections and began working to become “prime minister at any price,” and then flipped again during this month’s fight against Hamas — when he said “the left-wing government is off the table.”
Now, says Netanyahu, Bennett has done a third flip — in favor of a left-wing government. “What has changed? Nothing” — It’s just that “he’s trying to fool voters and drag votes to the left.”
Netanyahu says the battle is not yet lost. Instead of “a dangerous left-wing government,” a “good right-wing government” can yet be built after Lapid’s mandate ends on Wednesday. This could be via the arrangement he proposed earlier today — whereby Gideon Sa’ar, Netanyahu and Bennett would take turns in that order as prime minister. That would be “very unacceptable, unusual, and skewed,” he says, but still better than a left-wing government.
Alternatively, he says, there are enough MKs “who can give us more than 61 votes” in the 21 days after Lapid’s mandate ends — when the 120-seat Knesset would have the opportunity to rally behind a prime minister of its choice. He says these MKs — presumably defectors from Bennett’s, Sa’ar’s, and other “change bloc” parties — are saying they are “coming to a right-wing government.”
Bennett does not want a fifth general election “because he knows he’ll be wiped off the political map; he won’t clear the threshold,” says Netanyahu. “He only cares about himself.”
“I call on the MKs who were elected with right-wing votes: stick with that path — don’t establish a left-wing government,” urges Netanyahu. “That government is a danger to the security of Israel and a danger to the future of the state.”
He adds: “If heaven forbid it is established, in a few days, the security cabinet of the State of Israel [will include] Yair Lapid, [Meretz’s Nitzan] Horowitz, [Labor’s Merav] Michaeli, and [Meretz’s] Tamar Zandberg.”
He scoffs: “What impact will that have on Israel’s deterrent capability? How will we look to our enemies? What will they say in Iran and Gaza? What will they do in Iran and Gaza? What will they say in the corridors of the administration in Washington?
“Will Lapid, Zandberg, and company face down Iran?” he asks rhetorically. “They wholeheartedly support that dangerous nuclear agreement. They’ll fight Hamas? They depend on the votes of [Arab MKs Ahmad] Tibi and [Ayman] Odeh. They’ll defend our soldiers in The Hague?… Who’ll protect the settlements…? It’s a joke…”
Citing what he calls “another ridiculous fraud,” Netanyahu says: “They call this left-wing government a ‘unity government.’ It’s a government with 40 left and hard-left seats, with a fig leaf of parties that took votes from the right and brought them to the left, reliant on the support of anti-Zionist votes. And that they call a unity government!”
Fifty-two mandates of the “real right” are being pushed aside, he says. As for the Bennett-Lapid talk of national healing, Netanyahu asks: “The two million voters” who wanted him “are a sickness that needs healing?”
While claiming to be democratic, his rivals “are trying to pass legislation to prevent me winning future elections” in a process he compares to Syria, Iran, and North Korea.
“Not unity, not healing, not democracy — it’s an opportunistic government, a government of surrender and fraud,” he says. “It must not be established.”
He again urges MKs elected with right-wing votes: “Don’t cheat the public who supported you, and don’t cheat yourselves… If you’re a right-winger, you don’t vote for a left-wing government. And if you vote for a left-wing government, you are not a right-winger.”
He concludes: “Stand up against the left-wing government, and with God’s help we’ll together establish a right-wing government for the good of all of Israel’s citizens.”