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
“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
Livni on Saturday attacked Lapid as an inexperienced politician, who
was likely to recommend to President Shimon Peres that Netanyahu form the next
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
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
She said that she would recommend someone from the Center- Left bloc
to form the next government, whereas Lapid had intimated that “he might
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.