(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and “problematic” behavior by Likud MKs will land the Likud in the opposition, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said in secretly recorded remarks aired on Kan radio Sunday.
Edelstein is heard saying in the recordings that Netanyahu learned to be more brazen from US President Donald Trump: “Maybe Trump’s statement, that if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue it would only make more people vote for him, influenced Netanyahu.”
The Knesset speaker made the remarks in a closed meeting with prominent religious- Zionist journalists two weeks ago, a source close to Edelstein said. The source also said that Edelstein made the same criticisms of Netanyahu to his face in the past.
In regards to Netanyahu’s speech to Likud activists on Hanukka, in which he attacked the media and the police, Edelstein said: “Instead of getting up... and talking like a prime minister, he decided to talk about the police and [Channel 2 crime reporter] Moshe Nussbaum. It’s unfortunate... This is behavior that, I admit, is problematic.
“When Netanyahu talks like a prime minister, no one bothers him. There’s respect. The minute he starts saying ‘You’re bitter,’ the chaos begins [in the Knesset]. It’s too bad.”
As for the rest of the Likud’s Knesset members, Edelstein said: “I think the Likud has a serious problem. We have a faction that I would be very happy if about half of the MKs just went home, and there are new candidates who I would not be happy to see in the Knesset.”
“If we continue this way, we will be in the opposition,” he added. “If we don’t choose a different list, we will be in the opposition.”
Edelstein gave mixed messages on Netanyahu as foreign minister. He praised Netanyahu’s work to improve Israel’s international ties, saying he has done great things and made major achievements. However, he added, the prime minister “went crazy” over the fact that the local press does not give him credit for these things and for being “a very popular international figure.”
The Knesset speaker also said that Israel was not able to properly take advantage of Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital because there is no full-time foreign minister, and Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin are not on speaking terms.
“I say – and this is something that I can’t say in public – that we were lucky,” he said. “Trump does not like the system, and therefore he said what he said. Until that night, we should have had a meeting – the president, the prime minister, the foreign minister that we don’t have, and the Knesset speaker – and made a plan.
“There was no organized work because there is no foreign minister, the prime minister doesn’t talk to the president, and the president doesn’t talk to the prime minister. If we would have worked together we could have made more progress.”
Edelstein also confirmed in his remarks reports that Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev tried to insert Netanyahu into the annual Independence Day torch-lighting ceremony, which has traditionally been the Knesset speaker’s domain. He said that Netanyahu has wanted to take part in the ceremony for years. Edelstein denied threatening the state budget over the matter, and said that he spoke to the prime minister and worked it out.
Regev said after a Likud ministers’ meeting that she was “surprised by the Knesset speaker’s remarks. He is the first who should respect the results of democratic elections to the Knesset. I hope he will find a way to explain his stance.”