Smotrich sorry for calling Netanyahu a liar, refuses to say if ex-PM sought coalition with Ra’am

Chairman of the Religious Zionism party MK Bezalel Smotrich presents his party's 'Law and Justice' program during a press conference in Kfar Maccabiah in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/ Flash90)
Chairman of the Religious Zionism party MK Bezalel Smotrich presents his party's 'Law and Justice' program during a press conference in Kfar Maccabiah in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/ Flash90)

Far-right leader Bezalel Smotrich apologizes for calling opposition chief Benjamin Netanyahu a liar and “trouble” in a leaked recording aired last night by the Kan public broadcaster, but avoids answering whether Netanyahu tried to pressure him into accepting a government that relied on the Islamist Ra’am party.

The recording showed the Religious Zionism party chair claiming Netanyahu had “desperately wanted” his right-wing coalition to sit with the Islamist party Ra’am following the 2021 elections and accusing the Likud leader of “lying through his teeth” on the matter.

Netanyahu has gone on to make the inclusion of Ra’am in the current coalition a central part of his election campaign against the government, saying it is an illegitimate coalition partner.

In an interview with Kan, Smotrich stresses that it was a private conversation leaked to the media a week before Knesset elections.

“I said things I wasn’t supposed to say, I’m sorry for that… I apologize to Netanyahu and to anyone who was offended, I’ve learned my lesson,” he says. “There are disagreements between us, and sometimes things are said that shouldn’t be said.”

He notes that he regards Netanyahu as the “best” possible candidate at the moment to be prime minister.

After being recorded saying Netanyahu may be eventually convicted in his ongoing graft trial, Smotrich says he believes Netanyahu will be acquitted of the corruption charges since they are “trumped up.”

But despite being pressed several times on the matter, Smotrich pointedly refuses to answer the question of whether Netanyahu wanted to form a government with Ra’am — after saying countless times in the past that the former premier did want that, and taking pride in preventing such a coalition. Ra’am chief Mansour Abbas has similarly said advanced negotiations were held on forming one.

Most Popular