Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday tore into his rivals as they appeared set to swear in what he branded a “dangerous left-wing government,” claiming that if approved, the coalition would be the result of “the greatest election fraud” in Israel’s history.
At a faction meeting of his Likud party, Netanyahu said he condemned all incitement and violence, “even when others are silent when incitement toward us runs rampant.”
“The principle must be clear and uniform for everyone: Incitement and violence — and incitement to violence — will always be out of bounds,” he said.
His comments came a day after the head of the Shin Bet security agency issued a rare warning that rising incitement and hate speech on social media could lead to political violence, and as lawmakers in the so-called “change government” were given extra security amid mounting pressure from the right.
Netanyahu charged that right-wingers were being singled out unfairly for criticizing their political opponents.
“Criticism by the right can’t be treated as incitement and criticism by the left as a legitimate act of free speech. This is an effort to frame the right as something violent and dangerous to democracy,” he said.
Netanyahu then made the unfounded claim that “we are witnesses to the greatest election fraud in the history of the country and in my opinion the history of democracies.”
The premier also hit out at Facebook and Twitter after some right-wing figures, including his eldest son, Yair, had their accounts temporarily blocked for sharing a poster for a protest outside Yamina MK Nir Orbach’s home that included his address. Netanyahu called the brief suspensions “an attempt to silence the right… No one will silence us.”
Netanyahu then turned to the potential government that Yesh Atid chief Yair Lapid last week announced he can form. The prime minister has repeatedly denounced the government — which includes parties spanning the political spectrum — as “left-wing” and a dangerous threat to the state, its security and its people.
“When we talk about a dangerous left-wing government, we’re talking about a government that will lose the Negev, a government that can’t resist US demands to freeze building in Judea and Samaria and also unfortunately Jerusalem,” he said, using the biblical name for the West Bank.
He continued: “It won’t resist the pressure… to rebuild an American consulate for Palestinians in the heart of Jerusalem and in doing so return the matter of dividing Jerusalem to the agenda.”
Likewise, Netanyahu claimed the prospective government would not approve any “daring operations behind enemy lines in Iran,” after a deal is inked for the US to rejoin the 2015 accord limiting Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, an agreement fiercely opposed by the premier.
He also said “a government with the extreme left, a government dependent on terror supporters” could not properly fight Palestinian terror groups in Gaza or the International Criminal Court, should it move to charge Israeli soldiers with alleged war crimes.
“This is fraud toward the public,” Netanyahu said.
He also urged right-wing MKs in parties opposed to him to reject “this government that endangers Israel, a danger that we haven’t known for many years,” vowing his party would seek to prevent its establishment.
“If, God forbid, this government is formed, we’ll bring it down very quickly,” he said.
Speaking before Netanyahu, Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin of Likud denounced the “radical left-wing government.”
“A government based on abysmal hatred is about to be formed, not only toward the prime minister but toward all the values we stand for. This is a government that will be helpless vis-à-vis Iran and will stop the settlement in Judea and Samaria,” he said
Levin criticized the potential government for having “failed” to publish its coalition agreements, charging that its constituent parties were scared to “reveal what they are giving away in these bad agreements.”
The new coalition is only obligated to publish the agreements 24 hours before the swearing-in ceremony of the new government, for which Levin has not yet announced a date.
Earlier Sunday, sources close to Levin said he is weighing scheduling the vote to approve the new government for either this Wednesday or next Monday, June 14.
Levin will only consider picking the earlier date if there appears to be a reasonable shot at preventing the formation of the potential government, according to the Kan public broadcaster.
The speaker is set to inform the Knesset on Monday of Lapid’s announcement last week that he and his allies have assembled a majority coalition. By law, Levin has up to a week to schedule the confidence vote in the new government, and has been widely expected to use that full period in order to give Netanyahu and his political partners maximal time to try to thwart it.
The key reason Levin is eyeing Wednesday is in case Yamina MK Nir Orbach resigns rather than voting to oppose or back the government, Channel 12 news reported, as his resignation would not take effect for 48 hours. However, even lacking his vote, there would still be 60 MKs backing the coalition versus at most 59 lawmakers who are opposed, allowing the new government to be sworn in.
A pair of Yamina MKs predicted Sunday that Orbach will ultimately vote to back the proposed government — which will see the party’s leader Naftali Bennett and Lapid take turns as prime minister — or resign, but not actively oppose it.
Later Sunday, the heads of the eight parties in the change bloc will meet for the first time since the coalition was declared last week. Lapid’s Yesh Atid party said the meeting would be at 5 p.m.
Bennett, the prime minister-designate, is expected during the meeting to announce that Yamina MKs — with the exception of Amichai Chikli — will vote in favor of establishing the government, according to the Haaretz daily.
The would-be coalition appears increasingly likely to secure the necessary majority support in the Knesset, Israel’s two main news stations reported Friday night. The assessment among all members of the prospective government is that it indeed will be sworn in, Channel 12 said, with a wafer-thin majority.
Netanyahu, who has held power for over 12 years, in addition to a three-year stint from 1996-1999, is urging right-wing members of the emerging coalition to bolt from it before it can be voted in. Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, his ally, said Friday that Likud would “fight to the end” to prevent it.
The intended coalition brings together eight parties from across the political spectrum: the right-wing Yamina, New Hope and Yisrael Beytenu, the centrist Yesh Atid and Blue and White, the left-wing Labor and Meretz, and the conservative Islamic party Ra’am. Bennett is set to serve as prime minister until September 2023, with Lapid to succeed him for the subsequent two years.