Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told members of his Likud party on Sunday that their goal was to reach 40 Knesset seats in the next national election, though he stressed that he did not yet know when it would be held.
He told a group of party candidates running in upcoming municipal elections the results of that vote would “strengthen the power of Likud throughout the country.”
He said reaching 35 seats, up from the Likud’s current 30, was a “reasonable” goal, but that 40 was the real target.
“We’re getting there,” Netanyahu said. “With God’s help and with yours, the Likud faction will reach the heavens.”
Recent polls show Likud winning around 30 seats in the 120-seat Knesset.
In response to Netanyahu’s claim, Tamar Zandberg, head of the left-wing Meretz party, said that the nation’s support for the prime minister was ebbing.
“Netanyahu will discover very soon that… the public will not continue to forgive a corrupt prime minister who sells and divides the state’s citizens for narrow political considerations and allows extremists to run his government,” she said.
“This pride is exactly what will cause Netanyahu’s downfall. Soon the prime minister will discover that 4000 is bigger than 40.”
She was referring to one of the police investigations into the prime minister, known as Case 4000. In the case, Netanyahu is suspected of advanced regulatory decisions as communications minister and prime minister that benefited Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder in Bezeq, the country’s largest telecommunications firm, despite opposition from the Communication Ministry’s career officials. Police suspect that in exchange he received positive coverage from Elovitch’s Walla news site.
Labor MK Mickey Rosenthal reacted similarly to Netanyahu’s announcement, tweeting: “Another possibility, which is not unreasonable: 35 months in prison; 40 is the goal.”
Netanyahu has also been investigated in Cases 1000 and 2000, in which police have already recommended bribery indictments against him.
Although national elections are not scheduled until November 2019, earlier this month Netanyahu told fellow coalition party leaders that if the ultra-Orthodox parties don’t compromise on a military draft law, he will announce early elections at the beginning of September, likely to be held early in 2019.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.