Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar on Friday harshly criticized Likud and the party’s head, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, accusing them of trying to “bribe” members of the coalition in an effort to bring about the collapse of the government. And he vowed, again, not to partner with Netanyahu in government.
In an interview with Channel 12, Sa’ar said Likud was “offering bribes to different people” in the coalition and rejected rumors that suggested that he was considering quitting the coalition and forming a right-wing government with the Likud.
“I won’t bring Bibi back, I’ll say that as clearly as I can,” he said, referring to Netanyahu by his nickname and accusing him and his party of spreading fake news and lying to coalition members.
“It’s a factory of fake news,” he said. “They’re always working to spread fake news. Once to weaken me and hurt the public that follows me and then to try and lure people in.”
Sa’ar claimed the Likud was behind the repeated rumors of his potential defection. “They say: ‘Come to us, we’ll give you a spot in the next government, a spot in the next Knesset. Here, Gideon [Sa’ar] is about to join us, come first, before he does.'”
The minister also rejected the possibility of merging with another party in the next round of elections, touting his New Hope party. There has been speculation that some of the smaller right-wing or centrist parties in the coalition would need to run together to ensure they cross the electoral threshold and make it into the next Knesset.
“I don’t have plans to join anyone. I intend to run with the New Hope party, we’re all united. We worked together. They were a paragon both in the government and in the Knesset — and that’s what we will offer the public,” he said.
In response to his comments, a statement issued by the Likud read: “Gideon Sa’ar needs to keep his word and disperse the government if it doesn’t pass the West Bank laws. Currently, the most important thing is going to elections or establishing a national government in this Knesset that won’t be dependent on the Muslim Brotherhood, that will address the rising cost of living and will protect the [West Bank Jewish] settlements.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett continued his last-ditch efforts to convince Yamina MK Nir Orbach to remain in the coalition after he announced earlier this week his decision to quit.
Orbach’s announcement dropped the ailing political alliance into the Knesset minority — two seats behind the divided but determined opposition.
Shortly after Orbach’s public pullback from the coalition, Bennett acknowledged the gravity of the situation and estimated that the coalition will collapse within the next two weeks unless its MKs fall back in line — a shift from his previous attempts to project business as usual.
According to Channel 12, Bennett has been asking Orbach to hold off on voting against the coalition until after the upcoming visit of US President Joe Biden, saying that it had serious ramifications for Israel with regards to Iran.
According to a Thursday report by the Kan public broadcaster, Bennett discussed the possibility of setting up an alternative government with Netanyahu’s Likud party during a meeting with one of his political advisers in Tel Aviv.
Bennett’s Yamina party denied the report.
An alternative government could be set up within the current Knesset, without new elections, if another candidate can assemble a majority.
However, on Friday, Channel 12 reported that Bennett and Yair Lapid were determined to prevent Netanyahu from forming an alternative government.
“In no situation will we allow Netanyahu a government in the Knesset,” a source close to Bennett told the Channel. “That would be a prize for extortion.”
However, the report said there was concern that fellow Yamina minister Ayelet Shaked would not go along with that.
The report said Shaked was trying to put together a right-wing alternative government and pressing on all parties to compromise.