Netanyahu vows to accept election results: ‘What can I do? Cry?’

Liberman claims without proof that PM is planning riot like US Capitol insurrection; pressed on escalating Biden-Putin fight, premier says both leaders are his ‘personal friends’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convenes his cabinet to inaugurate a new town named after then-US president Donald Trump in a gesture of appreciation for the US leader's recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights on June 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convenes his cabinet to inaugurate a new town named after then-US president Donald Trump in a gesture of appreciation for the US leader's recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights on June 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday promised to accept next week’s election results, even if he loses.

“Of course I’ll accept the results. What can I do, cry?” he told Army Radio ahead of the country’s fourth national vote in two years on Tuesday.

His comment came a day after Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman claimed without evidence that Netanyahu was planning a riot similar to the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol carried out by supporters of former president Donald Trump who refused to accept his election loss.

Liberman, a bitter opponent of Netanyahu, did not provide any proof for the allegation, which was made in an interview with Channel 12. The accusation came after Likud supporters twice attacked activists from rival parties in recent weeks.

Netanyahu in the Thursday interview was also asked for his thoughts on US President Joe Biden calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a “killer” earlier this week, setting up a fight between Washington and Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) with a bouquet of flowers and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Kremlin in Moscow on January 30, 2020. (Maxim Shemetov/Pool/AFP)

“Both of them are my personal friends. These relations are important. I don’t interfere in this matter,” said Netanyahu.

“[Israel] works every few days to prevent Iranian entrenchment in Syria, and our freedom of action there is preserved in part because of our relations with Russia,” he added, hinting at why he wasn’t at liberty to take as tough a stance on Putin as Biden has.

The upcoming elections were called after the power-sharing government of Likud and Blue and White failed to agree on a budget by a December 23 deadline. The election, like the previous three votes, is largely seen as a referendum on Netanyahu’s rule amid his ongoing trial on corruption charges, as well as his government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Workers hang an election campaign billboard for the Likud Party showing a portrait of its leader Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, lower right, and opposition party leader Yair Lapid, upper right, next to a billboard of the Yisrael Beitenu Party showing its leader Avigdor Lieberman, in Bnei Brak, Sunday, March. 14, 2021. Israel heads into its fourth election in less than two years on March 23. Hebrew on billboard at right reads: “Next Prime Minister: Lapid or Netanyahu.” (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Though Likud is predicted to gain the most seats, surveys have generally predicted political deadlock after the election, with no party having a clear path to assembling a majority coalition.

The prime minister was also pressed on his corruption trial, which is ongoing. Netanyahu denies the charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in the cases.

The premier was dismissive when asked whether he was concerned he could face imprisonment in the cases, insisting that the allegations are “crumbling” and will continue to “crumble.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) claps during a ceremony welcoming passengers on a flight operated by budget airline flydubai to Ben Gurion Airport, near Tel Aviv, on November 26, 2020. (Emil Salman/Pool/AFP)

Asked whether the judges hearing his case can be trusted to rule fairly, Netanyahu responded, “I really hope so.”

The Army Radio interviewer also raised last week’s canceled trip to the United Arab Emirates. Netanyahu said it wasn’t scuttled because of the UAE, but rather due to a “malfunction” — an apparent reference to a dispute with Jordan over using its airspace to fly to Abu Dhabi. Israel has blamed Amman for the cancellation of the trip.

The trip to the UAE been planned for several months but postponed on numerous occasions, most recently in February. Netanyahu had originally been set to make the trip in November, then December, and then in January and February, but the pandemic, scheduling issues, and internal political crises led to repeated delays.

The UAE was reportedly reluctant to agree to host him last week, because of concerns that this would be perceived as election interference, and Netanyahu was said to have deployed Mossad intelligence agency chief Yossi Cohen to persuade them.

Pressed as to whether the Mossad chief should have been involved in what appeared to be a political, election-related matter, Netanyahu said, “I will not say where I am sending Yossi Cohen, but these are more important tasks.”

Mossad chief Yossi Cohen at a Tel Aviv University cyber conference on June 24, 2019. (Flash90)

The premier has also been accused of barring Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi from flying to the UAE before he does.

“Gabi Ashkenazi will probably visit the Emirates, or his successor will get there. Don’t worry,” Netanyahu said.

The prime minister has sought to burnish his credentials as Israel’s leading statesman as part of his reelection pitch ahead of March 23 polls, and a UAE visit could have aided that effort.

But an Emirati official said in pointed comments on Wednesday that the United Arab Emirates would not get involved in Israeli electioneering. “From the UAE’s perspective, the purpose of the Abrahamic Accords is to provide a robust strategic foundation to foster peace and prosperity with the State of Israel and in the wider region,” tweeted Anwar Gargash, adviser to UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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