Israel Elections: Smotrich apologizes, says 'Netanyahu is not a liar'

Religious Zionist Party leader MK Bezalel Smotrich apologized for his comments regarding opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu in multiple interviews with the Hebrew media on Monday.

 Head of the Religious Zionist Party MK Bezalel Smotrich speaks next to Head of opposition Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting with the opposition parties at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, on June 28, 2021.  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Head of the Religious Zionist Party MK Bezalel Smotrich speaks next to Head of opposition Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting with the opposition parties at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, on June 28, 2021.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

“[Benjamin] Netanyahu is not a liar,” Religious Zionist Party leader Bezalel Smotrich said Tuesday, following leaked recordings of comments he had made about the opposition leader.

“With God’s help, I will not do it again,” he told KAN Reshet Bet. “I said things that were not worthy of being said. These things are not true. Netanyahu is not a liar.”

Smotrich also apologized on Monday night in interviews on Channels 12 and 13.

"With God's help, I will not do it again, I said things that were not worthy of being said. The things are not true, Netanyahu is not a liar."

Bezalel Smotrich

“There will be time for soul-searching and reflecting later,” he told KAN Reshet Bet, adding that now was the time to work on trying to form a government.

The backlash to the tape

The apologies followed a leaked recording published by KAN News on Sunday in which Smotrich referred to Netanyahu as the “liar of all liars,” citing the Likud leader’s claims of never wanting to invite the Ra’am (United Arab List) Party to form a coalition, even though, according to the RZP leader, that is what he very much wanted to do.

The remarks sparked a backlash from the Likud, and Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas said Netanyahu did, in fact, try to get him to help form a government.

 Elected chairman of the Religious Zionism party MK Bezalel Smotrich speaks to the press after the results were announced in the Religious Zionism primaries, in Ramat Gan, August 23, 2022. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90) Elected chairman of the Religious Zionism party MK Bezalel Smotrich speaks to the press after the results were announced in the Religious Zionism primaries, in Ramat Gan, August 23, 2022. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)

Smotrich said he believed the recordings were edited and criticized the media for focusing on them.

This tape is edited,” he said. “You didn’t hear what I think about Netanyahu. I think it is serious and outrageous that a week before an election this is being discussed.”

“I will not go into every sentence I said and in what context it was said,” Smotrich said. “It is serious that the media cooperates with this and deals with it. To publish a secret recording is to ruin trust; it damages our ability to trust each other. You are wrong for dealing with this, and whoever leaked it is wrong. You are destroying our society with your own hands.”

Yesh Atid said in response: “Smotrich the draft dodger admitted in the recording what we all know – Netanyahu is willing to harm the citizens of the country for his own personal interest. Together with him, a vote for the extremist Smotrich and Ben-Gvir is a vote against the IDF’s fighters.”

In a recording that was leaked 24 hours after Smotrich’s remarks were made public, Religious Zionist Party MK Itamar Ben-Gvir said Netanyahu had “used and stabbed” the party in the back.

He also lamented Netanyahu’s refusal to stand on the same stage with him during a Sukkot event in Kfar Chabad.

“They didn’t just ask to not get a photo... [the Likud] wanted me offstage,” the Otzma Yehudit head said in a recording obtained by the N12 news site. “We are about to become political partners, for God’s sake.”

“We could win more seats,” he added. “Bibi [Netanyahu] told me several times in the past that ‘it will be worth it in the end.’ But to this day, it seems as if he got what he wanted from us and moved on. It’s like a knife in the back.”

Ben-Gvir said he was wary of Netanyahu not including his faction in the government following the November 1 election.

“In Caesarea [during meetings with Netanyahu], he made several commitments... but let’s not act naive[ly],” Ben-Gvir said.

Maariv contributed to this report.