Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that a left-wing government poses an existential threat to Israel, because only a strong Likud could prevent a nuclear Iran and a Hamas takeover of the West Bank.
When voters head to the polls on March 17, the decision before them will be “either the Likud or the Left,” Netanyahu said as he spoke to students at the Bnei David Yeshiva in the settlement of Eli.
“Their center of gravity is not our center of gravity,” Netanyahu said of the Left. “A deep chasm separates us, when it comes to our values, our deep connection to our heritage and the ability to stand proudly and wisely to face the tremendous pressure against us.”
These elections, he said, can determine whether Israel receives a strong leadership or one that would make dangerous concessions.
His rivals at the helm of the Zionist Union, Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni, cannot stop the threat of a second “Hamastan” in Judea and Samaria or an international agreement that would leave Iran with the capacity to develop a nuclear weapon, he warned.
“The simple question is who will prevent [these threats]: Tzipi? Buji?” he asked incredulously.
He used two small plastic water bottles to illustrate his point that the minor parties in the election were not relevant and that voters should focus on the main battle between the Likud, on the one hand, and the Zionist Union under the partnership of Herzog and Livni, on the other.
“This is the Likud,” he said as he placed one bottle in front of him. “This is the Left or Labor or whatever they call themselves [The Zionist Union],” he said as he put down a second bottle.
In a style of demonstration reminiscent of his red line graphics with regard to Iran at the United Nations, he used the water level in the bottles to demonstrate the voter support needed to form a government.
The size of the party will have a significant impact on who will be given the ability to form a government, he said.
Pointing to the bottle with the most water, he said that if the water level goes down, and it goes to parties that would be natural allies with the Likud, that is fine. But if the water level goes down because votes go to the left-wing party, then the ability to form a government will be handed to the Left, and a government will be formed “that did not know Joseph,” that will cave at every turn.
“Those who want me to continue to lead the nation will vote Likud,” he said, adding that without the “right leadership,” Israel would face a “great crisis.”
“Self-defense is not just about stopping the physical threats, but the ability to stand up to the nations of the world and to stop the false accusations and the bloodletting against our nation,” Netanyahu said.
An Israeli leader must have the moral standing to act in the international arena to stop the attempts to delegitimize Israel.
“There are those who dispute our rights to be here in Eli or in Tel Aviv, or Jaffa, and our rights to this land all together,” Netanyahu said.
His trip to the national-religious community of Eli, located outside the route of the security barrier and some 23.7 kilometers over the pre- 1967 lines, is part of his attempt to woo rightwing voters to support the Likud instead of the Bayit Yehudi Party.
The head of the Bnei David Yeshiva, Rabbi Eli Sadan, is a known Bayit Yehudi supporter.
Prior to speaking with the yeshiva students, Netanyahu held a private meeting with Sadan, Likud activists and Avi Ro’eh, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria.
Meretz party activists held a small protest at the edge of Eli. They held up signs that said “Bibi, the prime minister of the settlers.” They shouted out, “Money for doctors and not for villas in the territories.”
The night before, at a political event in Ramat Gan, Meretz party head Zehava Gal-On attacked Netanyahu’s visit to Eli.
“The prime minister has lost his international standing and is now doing everything he can to provoke the international community into isolating Israel from the world,” Gal-On said.
Given the way he has funneled taxpayer money into the settlements at the expense of the rest of the country, it’s no wonder that he has chosen to visit Judea and Samaria rather than communities along the Gaza border,” she said.
But Yigal Dilmoni, the director-general of the council, said that Netanyahu does not often visit the settlements.
“This is an important visit. It shows the world that the prime minister is also the leader of this region,” Dilmoni said.
In Eli, yeshiva students stood in a long line to listen to Netanyahu. The room was so packed that some students were turned away at the door.
Signs in support lined the road into the settlement and next to the auditorium where he spoke, including one that urged him to stand strong against international pressure. A few isolated signs attacked him for allowing Jewish home demolitions in Judea and Samaria.
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