Benjamin Netanyahu jokingly told Shas party leader Aryeh Deri to call him “Your highness” on Monday, after Deri mistakenly referred to him as prime minister.
It was an understandable mistake on Deri’s part, as Netanyahu had been replaced as premier by Naftali Bennett only a day earlier after more than 12 consecutive years in power.
During a meeting of opposition party leaders — notably excluding the predominantly Arab Joint List — Deri slipped toward the end of his public address.
“I have nothing to add. I think the prime minister…” the former interior minister said before realizing his mistake and stopping mid-sentence. He smiled and said: “It’s hard [to get used to it].”
Netanyahu then smiled and quipped: “Aryeh, don’t fight it. Say, ‘Your highness.’”
In an address earlier this month, Bennett, the Yamina leader who became prime minister on Sunday, reminded Netanyahu that Israel is not a monarchy, and that it was set to undergo “a change of government: a normal and obvious event in any democratic country.”
At a second meeting of opposition MKs on Monday, Likud’s former coalition chief Miki Zohar similarly introduced the former premier as “prime minister.”
“For me, you’ll always be prime minister,” he said upon being corrected.
The former prime minister earlier Monday only gave Bennett less than an hour for their formal handover — without the traditional ceremony and public good wishes, without a handshake and with no photo op — before rushing to the opposition meetings and publicly declaring that he would swiftly bring down the new government.
Addressing the MKs, Netanyahu demanded discipline and cohesion in order to make life harder on the coalition and “rescue the people and State of Israel.”
Throughout his address, the former premier did not mention Bennett by name, nor refer to his successor as prime minister. Instead, he said the new government was based on “fraud, hate and power-seeking” and too fractured to succeed.
“It can be overthrown on the condition that we act together and with iron discipline. If we squabble, we will not achieve it,” he said.