Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference, February 19th, 2019.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went on the offensive after Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid’s parties united to form the Blue and White Party, saying they will endanger Israel’s security and economic success.
Minutes after all three major news channels presented polls showing the new party surpassing Likud, Netanyahu warned that “It is not at all certain” that his party will remain in power, and called for right-wing voters to go to the polls and vote for Likud.
“We may have a left-wing, Lapid-Gantz government relying on Arab parties. A government like this will destroy our economy. Sooner or later, probably sooner, they will establish a Palestinian state... that will endanger our existence,” he said.
Netanyahu focused on painting the new bloc as solidly on the Left, instead of the centrist image it has sought to project.
“We have been in this picture twice before with generals on the Left who dress up as Right and talk about unity, but want left-wing policies,” he said, recounting the two previous times he was defeated in a Knesset election. “In 1992 we got [Yitzhak] Rabin and the Oslo disaster, and in 1999 we got [Ehud] Barak and the Intifada, with exploding buses and over a thousand killed.
“When I’m prime minister, you’re not afraid to get on a bus or enter a restaurant,” he added.
Netanyahu referred to a speech Gantz gave last week, in which he said he had decades of experience defending Israel while Netanyahu had moved to the US. Netanyahu pointed out that while Gantz mocked him he agreed to a rotation for the premiership with Lapid, “whose only security experience is being a reporter for the military newspaper. Think about that.”
The prime minister warned that Lapid and Gantz seek to make concessions to the Palestinians, quoting them speaking approvingly about the Gaza disengagement.
Netanyahu also quoted Lapid as calling the major powers’ agreement with Iran a done deal, which he contrasted with his persistence in calling to cancel the deal.
The prime minister touted his achievements in bolstering the economy and foreign relations.
“Heads of powerful countries want connections with Israel, including Arab states,” he said.
Netanyahu referred to low unemployment, Israel exporting gas to countries in the region and the cybersecurity sector, as opposed to Lapid, who, in his capacity as talk show host, once admitted to Netanyahu on live TV that he knew nothing about economics.
“He was right,” Netanyahu said. “He was a failed finance minister. Maybe the worst in Israel’s history. And Benny Gantz bankrupted his company in his only experience in the private market.”
Netanyahu also referred to Histadrut labor federation chief Avi Nissenkorn being on the Blue and White list, saying he’s the “head of the monopolistic union that prevents competition in the market.”
Earlier Thursday, the Likud secretariat approved the party’s final list.
After a final ruling by the Likud’s court, cigarette lobbyist Keren Barak’s spot as No. 25, reserved for a new female candidate, was assured.
MK Sharren Haskel was bumped up to a realistic 29th place after the reserved place for an immigrant candidate was canceled. MK Avraham Neguise had been in that spot, but because in all previous elections it was reserved for a first-time candidate, the Likud court canceled it, bumping up Haskel, who had received far more votes.
In keeping with Netanyahu’s commitment to Bayit Yehudi, Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben Dahan was put in 28th place on the party list.
Netanyahu also chose to appoint Erez Tadmor, one of his speechwriters, a member of the Likud campaign team and a founder of the right-wing organization Im Tirzu, in 41st place on the Likud list. The spot does not have a realistic chance of getting into the Knesset according to any poll conducted this election season.
“I am appointing a person who is a member of Likud, works and writes for the Likud, and helped us in our elections headquarters. He is a writer, a journalist and a broadcaster,” Netanyahu said of Tadmor.
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