Netanyahu said to claim US role in Lebanon deal is election interference

Public broadcaster says opposition chief privately lamented American involvement in maritime agreement and top senator’s comments on extreme-right parties allied with Likud

Likud party and opposition leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu attends Kikar HaShabbat conference at the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem Hotel, September 12, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Likud party and opposition leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu attends Kikar HaShabbat conference at the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem Hotel, September 12, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly lashed out at the US over its brokering of a deal between Israel and Lebanon to resolve a maritime dispute, claiming that the American involvement amounted to election interference, according to a Sunday television report.

The Kan public broadcaster reported that Netanyahu alleged in private talks that the Biden administration was attempting to interfere in the November 1 elections.

The report said Netanyahu protested both the US involvement in the negotiations between Israel and Lebanon, and a senior Democrat senator’s warning that the former premier’s inclusion of extreme-right lawmakers in a potential future government would harm US-Israel relations.

A source told the Walla and Axios news sites that Netanyahu was “pissed off” by the comments made by Senator Robert Menendez of Jersey, who chairs the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

In public comments Sunday on the emerging agreement over the maritime dispute, Netanyahu charged that Prime Minister Yair Lapid had “surrendered to Hezbollah’s threats,” and maintained that if he were able to form a government after the elections, he would not be bound by the deal.

The Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group has made repeated threats at the gas installations during the US-mediated talks.

Lapid responded in a tweet addressing Netanyahu directly, saying, “For 10 years you have failed in trying to bring about this agreement, at least don’t harm Israel’s security interests and help Hezbollah with irresponsible messages.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz also weighed in on Netanyahu’s comments, accusing the opposition leader of being guided by “irresponsible political considerations.”

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev later accused Netanyahu of “acting just like [Hassan] Nasrallah,” referring to the chief of the Lebanese terror group.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid flies over the Karish gas field on July 19, 2022. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Meanwhile, a poll published Sunday evening indicated that Netanyahu’s right-wing and religious bloc would narrowly fail to muster a majority in the 120-seat Knesset.

According to the poll by Channel 13 news, Netanyahu’s Likud would get 31 seats, followed by Yesh Atid with 25, Religious Zionism 14, National Unity 12, Shas 8, United Torah Judaism 7, Labor 5, Yisrael Beytenu 5, Meretz 5, Hadash-Ta’al 4, and Ra’am 4.

Jewish Home, as well as Balad, which split from Hadash and Ta’al, would not pass the 3.25% electoral threshold, each at 2%.

According to the poll, Netanyahu’s bloc is at 60 seats, one short of a majority, and one down on a survey by the same channel 10 days ago. Polls in recent weeks have consistently placed the opposition bloc at 59-60 seats.

Israeli TV polls are notably unreliable; nevertheless, they often steer the decision-making of politicians.

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