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Netanyahu says he will run for fourth term as PM
By GIL HOFFMAN
01/19/2013
PM says for first time in Channel 10 interview that upcoming election will not be his last.
 
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said for the first time on Saturday night that Tuesday’s election would not be his last and that he intends to run for a fourth term as prime minister, if he emerges victorious.

Netanyahu, whose two terms in office have totaled seven years, recently passed Yitzhak Shamir as the prime minister who served second longest after David Ben- Gurion. In an interview with Channel 10, he was asked whether he intended to try to serve another six years to outlast Israel’s first prime minister.

“I intend to be here for many more years,” Netanyahu, 63, said in the interview in the prime minister’s official Jerusalem residence.

Until Netanyahu’s statement, Likud politicians assumed that this would be Netanyahu’s last term as prime minister, and he would then make way for up-and-coming future prime ministerial candidates in his Likud party, such as ministers Moshe Ya’alon and Gideon Sa’ar, and perhaps even former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman if he emerged unscathed from his legal problems.

Netanyahu defended the deal he made to have his Likud run together with Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu, which has been much-maligned, especially since Liberman was indicted last month.

“The connection with Liberman and Yisrael Beytenu was crucial because without it, we would be in a very difficult situation,” Netanyahu said.

He indicated that had he not made the deal with Yisrael Beytenu, his becoming prime minister after Tuesday’s election would be in doubt. He said he was still not confident that he would be entrusted with forming the next coalition.

“It is not certain [that I will remain to form the next government], because I don’t know if the Center-Left bloc will unite after the election and then try to pull away parties [from the Right-Center bloc],” Netanyahu said.

The prime minister said he would build a coalition with guidelines that would be based on his 2009 Bar-Ilan University speech, in which he came out in favor of a demilitarized Palestinian state, as well as his party’s policies on security and socioeconomic issues and equalizing the burden of IDF service.

Netanyahu’s associates are working on legislation for haredi service that includes elements of proposals drawn up by Ya’alon, Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, and Tzipi Livni Party Knesset candidate Elazar Stern. But in a weekend interview with Yisrael HaYom, Netanyahu appeared to dismiss the possibility of forming a government with Livni’s party.

“Naturally, the easiest coalition partners are those that one would not have to constantly justify joining to their voters,” he said. “That is what distinguishes between party leaders. There are those who are always protesting the possibility of joining a government headed by me.”

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Livni on Saturday attacked Lapid as an inexperienced politician, who was likely to recommend to President Shimon Peres that Netanyahu form the next government.

When asked in a Channel 2 interview about fears that she would quit politics again if her party failed to do well in the election, Livni said, “Unlike [former journalist] Lapid, I know what the Knesset and the government is... For me, it’s not a second career, I won’t leave after the elections.”

Livni said that she had “stood up to the haredim” in the previous Knesset, and Lapid had not proven that he was ready to do so.

She said that she would recommend someone from the Center- Left bloc to form the next government, whereas Lapid had intimated that “he might recommend Netanyahu.”

Lapid on Saturday refused to say whom he would recommend to form the next government.

“I will tell you who I will recommend after the elections,” Lapid said in a Channel 2 interview minutes after Livni attacked him in the same studio. “I don’t know what the results will be, or how the negotiations will be handled... It would be irresponsible of me to say whom I was recommending beforehand. I will say that I won’t sit in a right-wing extremist haredi coalition.”

As to whether or not he would sit in a government with Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett, Lapid said, “I agree with Bennett on a lot of things, but not with his party.”

Lapid said that there were “many troubling extremists” on the Bayit Yehudi candidates list “who do what their rabbis tell them to... It bothers me that Bennett says Torah students don’t need to enlist in the army.”

He added, however, “I’m not ruling anyone out.”

Shas leader Eli Yishai predicted in a Channel 2 interview that Lapid would end up compromising on equalizing the burden of IDF service after the election.

Daniel Clinton contributed to this report.
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