Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said Iran was “just waiting” for his political opponents in the Blue and White party to come to power, claiming they would be far softer on Tehran than he has been.
“If not for the actions we’ve taken Iran would have had a nuclear arsenal a long time ago, and its coffers would have been even more full to take over the Middle East with,” Netanyahu said at a surprise party thrown for him to celebrate his becoming Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.
“We’ve blocked it up until now but it hasn’t been permanently blocked,” he said. “No one knows what will happen… the Iranians are banking on it being only a little while more until they’re free of [us]… The Iranians are just waiting, they’re waiting for our opponents.”
“Who will stop [them]?” he said. “Benny Gantz? Who will stop it, Yair Lapid?” Netanyahu said. “These people who said we mustn’t walk away from the [nuclear] deal? That it was alright?”
Gantz said in 2015 after the nuclear deal was signed that while the nuclear deal could have been better, it had its benefits.
Netanyahu is once again locked in an election battle with Gantz and Lapid, with his Likud party and Blue and White neck and neck in the polls. But it remains unclear if either of the parties can form a governing coalition, after Netanyahu failed to do so following the April election.
Gantz last week said he was “in talks with Likud’s representatives” about the possibility of forming a national unity government without Netanyahu following the election.
“Everyone understands the need for a broad and stable government,” Gantz said. “Our people have been in talks with Likud representatives. We know that they are also getting ready for the day after Netanyahu,” he said, reiterating a claim that members of the ruling party are interested in dumping the prime minister due to the pending criminal charges against him.
Netanyahu is facing indictment, pending a hearing with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, on fraud and breach of trust charges in three corruption cases, and on a bribery charge in one of them.
Likud officials last month were reportedly seeking a deal to form a unity government with Blue and White that would see the upcoming elections canceled. Gantz’s centrist party said that such a move would only be possible if Netanyahu stepped down, however.
Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.