Netanyahu starts cannibalizing satellite parties

The change in strategy came as former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz’s Blue and White Party has been able to maintain a lead over Likud.

March 25, 2019 13:32
2 minute read.
Benjamin Netanyahu.

Benjamin Netanyahu.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu changed his strategy for the April 9 election and began an effort to woo voters away from the Likud’s satellite parties, in an interview with the right-wing Channel 20 that was broadcast on Sunday.

The change in strategy came as former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz’s Blue and White Party has been able to maintain a lead over Likud. Polls broadcast on Channel 12 and 13 on Sunday found that their lead is three to four seats.

In the Channel 12 poll, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu Party did not cross the threshold, and the Channel 13 poll predicted that neither would Yisrael Beytenu. But Netanyahu, who earlier pushed for right-wing parties to unite so they would not waste votes, said he now has a more important priority.

“If Likud won’t be bigger, there is a danger that [President Reuven] Rivlin could ask Gantz and [Yair] Lapid to form the next government,” Netanyahu said. “If people do not vote for a strong Likud, Lapid will be prime minister and settlements will be evacuated. Every Israeli citizen needs to be worried, and anyone worried should vote for Likud.”

Netanyahu continued to seek voters from other right-wing parties when he was asked a question about whether he would form a coalition with Blue and White.

“I said I would form a nationalist government, and they will not be there – but I have to win first,” Netanyahu said. “There is a danger that the largest party will be asked to form a government and not the party that receives the most recommendations. If Likud will not be larger, there is a true danger.”

Responding to Gantz’s call for a debate, Netanyahu said that the only debate that would happen would be in court, because he intended to sue Blue and White’s leaders.

“They accused me of betrayal,” he said. “They enter politics and hit a low immediately. I will sue all of them.”

US President Donald Trump has acted on three things that Netanyahu had spoken to him about: exiting the Iran deal, relocating the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognizing sovereignty on the Golan Heights.

Trump took action on these issues because they matched his own beliefs, Netanyahu said.

On the Golan, “I asked and he did it. But he did it because he believes in it – and that the prior policy with regard to Israel was wrong,” Netanyahu said.

With regard to the peace plan that Trump is expected to roll out after the April 9 election, Netanyahu said he had explained to the president three principled points that were important to Israel. Jerusalem can not be divided, settlements can not be uprooted, and Israel must retain control of the area west of the Jordan River.

Gantz and Lapid, Netanyahu claimed, would support the uprooting of 80,000 to 90,000 settlers.

“I am not going to evacuate the area, they will,” he said.

With regard to Gaza, Netanyahu said the IDF was responding in real time, attacking when rockets or incendiary devices are launched.

When asked about whether he might bring Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard back from the US, Netanyahu said he has not succeeding in swaying the US to allow him to return to Israel. “We are trying all the time. We can hope. But it's still not about to happen.”

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