Lampooning the Likud party for forcing its candidates in the upcoming elections to sign a pledge of unequivocal support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, activists from the Labor party placed a placard in central Tel Aviv on Monday for passersby to vow loyalty to human beings, while the United Right announced it would require a pledge of allegiance to its values.
“The Likud party pledges to Bibi, we pledge to human beings,” read the Labor statement on the city’s Rothschild Boulevard, using the prime minister’s nickname.
Among the signatories were leader Amir Peretz, who said that his party was committed to ousting Netanyahu.
“Netanyahu’s paranoia has crossed every line. He also seems to understand that his days are over. They pledge not to replace Bibi, we pledge to replace him and his ways,” he said.
“Netanyahu prefers to pay the price of the conflict and not the political price of a solution so as not to upset the messianic extreme right that he depends on for his continued rule, and for his freedom,” added Peretz.
Meanwhile, also riffing on Likud’s pledge a day earlier, United Right leader Ayelet Shaked announced that candidates on her slate will be asked to sign a commitment to ten right-wing values.
These included upholding the controversial nation-state law declaring that Israel is a Jewish state, opposing the foundation of a Palestinian state and any Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and implementing full Israeli sovereignty there, strengthening Jewish identity, opposing illegal immigration to the country, and waging a “decisive and uncompromising” fight against terror.
Likud’s scramble Sunday to force its candidates to affirm their allegiance to Netanyahu came after Avigdor Liberman, whose Yisrael Beytenu party is currently forecast to be coalition kingmaker after the September 17 vote, outlined a scenario in which Netanyahu could be ousted as head of the ruling party if he rejected Liberman’s proposed unity government between Likud, Yisrael Beytenu and Blue and White.
Liberman floated Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein as a Likud member who could replace Netanyau, prompting Edelstein to declare the premier was the “sole Likud candidate for prime minister.”
“We, the undersigned, candidates for Likud for the 22nd Knesset, emphasize that we will not be dictated to by any other party. Regardless of the election results, prime minister and Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu is the only Likud candidate for prime minister — and there will be no other candidate,” the pledge signed by the Likud candidates stated.
“Thanks to Likud members for their unequivocal support of me. Likud is more united than ever,” Netanyahu tweeted after the pledge letter was released.
After the letter was first picked up by the Ynet news site, Blue and White No. 2 Yair Lapid said his party was indeed in talks with Likud members about a possible successor to Netanyahu.
On Sunday evening, at an event with Likud members in the southern resort city of Eilat, Netanyahu alleged, “They really want to destroy democracy, because they have a shady plot.
“What is the shady plot? Lapid, Liberman, a few others, they have a shady plot. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is also some of us from the right as well,” he continued. “What’s the plan? They want to fulfill their ambition to be prime ministers, but they have a problem because the public is choosing Likud.”
Lapid responded by taunting the premier in a tweet: “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean we’re not after you.”
On Monday, Lapid told the Kan public broadcaster that the Likud loyalty pledge was “a sign of Netanyahu’s weakness.”
“Only someone in total panic makes everyone sign to say how wonderful he is, how great he is and how much they believe in him,” said Lapid.
Liberman said Monday that the Likud vow was reminiscent of North Korea.
“The disgraceful signing of a North Korea-style loyalty declaration by Knesset MKs shows Netanyahu’s utter lack of faith in his party members,” Liberman wrote in a Facebook post.
Liberman’s comments in recent days insisting that he would force a unity government added fresh fuel to his ongoing feud with Netanyahu, who is campaigning to pick off supporters from the Yisrael Beytenu leader’s base of immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
Once a political ally, Liberman refused to join a Netanyahu-led government after the elections in April unless a bill formalizing exemptions to mandatory military service for yeshiva students was passed without changes, a demand rejected by the prime minister’s ultra-Orthodox partners.
That impasse helped trigger the fresh vote, as without Yisrael Beytenu Netanyahu was one seat short of a ruling majority.
Liberman has vowed to push for a unity government that does not include ultra-Orthodox factions if no one can form a coalition after the elections without his Yisrael Beytenu.
Likud has dismissed the idea of a unity government, declaring it will seek a coalition with right-wing and religious parties, while Blue and White has voiced support if it does not include Netanyahu. But recent polls have shown Yisrael Beytenu growing stronger since the April vote, meaning it is likely to find itself in a position force unity after the elections.