Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began a campaign over the weekend to take seats away from the Likud’s satellite parties on the Right, in an effort to win more seats for Likud than Blue and White in Tuesday’s election, and ensure that President Reuven Rivlin will ask him to form the next government.
As part of that effort, in an interview with Channel 12 on Saturday night, Netanyahu vowed to annex territories in settlements and evacuate the illegal West Bank herding village of Khan Al-Ahmar, if he wins another term.
“We are dealing [with the Americans] on exercising Israeli sovereignty on Ma’aleh Adumim and other things,” Netanyahu said. “Everyone understands the next term will be fateful for guaranteeing our security and our control over key territory in Judea and Samaria.”
In weekend interviews with Channel 13 and the right-wing Makor Rishon
and Israel Hayom
newspapers, Netanyahu vowed to not permit a single settlement or a single resident of them to be evacuated.
“That [evacuation] will not be happening,” he told Channel 13. “If that’s the plan, there will be no plan.”
In the Makor Rishon
interview, Netanyahu promised more clearly than ever that he would form a government with right-wing parties and not invite Blue and White to join his coalition.
“Anyone with a brain understands that a unity government cannot be formed,” he said.
Netanyahu had been careful until this weekend not to try to take votes from parties like Yisrael Beytenu, Kulanu and Shas, because they are in danger of not crossing the 3.25% electoral threshold.
But on Friday morning, he came out to visit Likud activists outside his Jerusalem residence and warned them that his rule was in danger. Just before Shabbat, he taped a video message saying that Blue and White leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid could form the next coalition.
“At the moment, Lapid and Gantz are leading us by four or five mandates,” he said. “If it won’t change, Lapid and Gantz will break the Right bloc and form a left-wing government. It is not imaginary.”
Netanyahu noted that Gantz and Lapid have said they have already negotiated with parties in the Likud’s bloc.
“There is only one way to guarantee that Lapid and Gantz won’t form a left-wing government, and that is to vote Likud,” Netanyahu said. Only a large Likud will block a left-wing government. If you stay home, if you don’t vote Likud, you voted for Lapid and Gantz.”
On Saturday night, the Likud released another video that featured an edited version of a speech by Rivlin in which he spoke about the largest party being a factor in his decision on which party leader to ask to form the government.
In the Channel 12 interview, Netanyahu said right-wing party leaders were not committing to recommend him to Rivlin. When interviewer Rina Matzliach responded that all except Zehut leader Moshe Feiglin had promised to recommend him in interviews with her Saturday night, Netanyahu said they could change their minds.
The leaders of right-wing parties reacted with anger to the prime minister’s change in strategy. They said he was lying about the Likud not being first in the polls and that he was irresponsibly trying to take away their votes. They said the move was a sign that he intends to form a government with Blue and White instead of them.
A right-wing rally that had been set for Jerusalem on Sunday night was canceled. The reason given for the cancellation was security, but political sources said the real reason was that parties to the Right of Likud were unwilling to send their supporters to hear Netanyahu speak.
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