Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu expressed a preference for forming a "wide coalition," but suggested that parties in the Center and Left bloc were responsible for ruling out such a possibility.
Speaking in excerpts of an interview with Channel 2 released Saturday, the full version of which was scheduled to be broadcast on Monday, Netanyahu stated, "Whoever wants to join a coalition based on my principles is welcome. In the meantime they are the ones that are rejecting me."
Netanyahu's comments came in response to efforts by Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich and Tzipi Livni to form an “obstructing bloc” to stop the prime minister from being reelected.
Livni called for Yacimovich and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid to form a “united front” toward victory over the Likud-Yisrael Beytenu joint list, speaking to Channel 2 News on Friday, two days after Yacimovich put herself at the fore of the Center-Left bloc by saying she would rather be opposition leader than join a Netanyahu coalition.
Netanyahu told Channel 2 that he would accept Livni, Lapid and Yacimovich in his coalition, even as ministers, but only on the condition that they "go in my diplomatic and economic direction, which I believe is responsible and has proven itself."
The prime minister said that Livni could be a minister in his government, "but I will lead policy on the issues of the Palestinians and security."
As for Yacimovich, Netanyahu stated that she could serve as a minister in his government as well, but he chuckled at the suggestion that he would give her the finance minister portfolio. "For the good of the Israeli economy, I should continue with the responsible and successful policy I've implemented thus far."
The prime minister addressed what has been described as the radicalization of the Likud, saying that "there are various opinions in the Likud, but the main direction will be led by me. Whoever wants to join the coalition is welcome."
Netanyahu stated that if he is chosen to lead the next government his top priorities will be "handling the housing issue, changing the electoral system and equalizing the service burden."
The prime minister rejected former Mossad chief Yuval Diskin's comments made over the weekend
that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were irresponsible in their handling of the Iranian threat and put their own personal interests over those of the country.
"These were things that were said as a result of all kinds of personal frustrations," Netanyahu stated, adding that his government led "an international effort against Iran."
Netanyahu also granted an interview to Israel Radio aired on Sunday morning, saying repeatedly that in order to successfully lead the country, a large Likud party was necessary.
Amid the fall of Likud Beytenu in polls to as few as 32 mandates
, and the rise of Bayit Yehudi in polls, Netanyahu warned voters on the Right that by "splitting forces" by voting for smaller parties, they were damaging the chances for a strong government to successfully deal with the threats against Israel.
"There is only way to ensure that the Right will stay in control and that is to vote for me," he stated.Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.