Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged on Thursday it could take up to three and a half years for his Likud party to return to power.
In a speech to a local government conference, the former prime minister continued his attacks on the coalition and said “we will come back quickly [into power] and fix it,” referring to the current government’s policies.
However, the Likud leader added: “It could be another two weeks or another three and a half years.”
The comments apparently referred to the fact that the government has until November 14 to finalize the budget and have it approved in its second and third readings, or the coalition will automatically dissolve, triggering new elections. In practice, the Knesset vote will likely have to take place by November 10, since the parliament’s plenum is usually active only from Monday to Wednesday.
However, Netanyahu’s comments were apparently the first time he admitted the government could last the full term until the next scheduled election.
In June, ahead of the swearing-in of a government headed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Netanyahu vowed that the coalition would not last long.
“If, God forbid, this government is formed, we’ll bring it down very quickly,” he said at the time.
The former premier’s speech came at the end of a challenging week for the Likud party.
On Tuesday, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar announced he would propose legislation that would potentially ban a person under indictment from being tasked with forming a government after elections take place. Netanyahu is on trial with three indictments against him.
And leaked recordings from an internal meeting appeared to point to frustrations within Likud as it struggled with its role in the opposition.
In power from 2009 to 2021, Likud now finds itself in unfamiliar territory in the opposition and is having uneven success in attempts to embarrass the coalition or impede its legislative agenda.
At a faction meeting Monday, Likud lawmakers could be heard on the tapes aired by Channel 12 news bickering over various strategies to counter the governing coalition.
The recordings include MK David Bitan also complaining over the fact that some party members are not present for key votes, raising his voice above that of Netanyahu. Last week, Netanyahu was one of a number of party members who skipped a preliminary vote on expanding access to medical marijuana, apparently believing that the coalition did not have enough support to pass the bill. The legislation passed 54-42.
The combative meeting came days after senior Likud lawmaker Yuli Edelstein announced he would challenge Netanyahu for the party leadership, threatening to further rend the faction.