Lapid can win election unless the Right votes Likud, Netanyahu warns

Netanyahu pointed to a Channel 13 poll from Tuesday, which gave the Likud party 31 seats, compared to Lapid's 27, which amounted to only four mandates between them.

 Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu is seen speaking at the Givat Harel outpost in the West Bank just days before the elections, on October 26, 2022. (photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu is seen speaking at the Givat Harel outpost in the West Bank just days before the elections, on October 26, 2022.
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid Party could win the election unless right-wing voters rally around the Likud, party head and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday as he visited the West Bank in hopes of snagging voters from smaller parties within the nationalistic camp.

Imagine "if the Likud [support] will drop [below Yesh Atid] — it could happen, think about it," Netanyahu told the small audience of Likud supporters at the Givat Harel outpost.

All that is needed, he said, would be "three mandates here and three mandates there and then Yesh Atid will be the largest party and the Likud would be second," he said.

In that scenario Lapid would be given the first shot at forming a government, Netanyahu said. He cautioned that he was not saying that Lapid could form a government in that instance. His point, Netanyahu said, was that the safest way to ensure Lapid's loss was to prevent him from ever getting an opportunity to create a left-wing coalition.

Netanyahu pointed to a Channel 13 poll from Tuesday, which gave the Likud party 31 seats, compared to Lapid's 27, which amounted to only four mandates between them.

Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu is seen speaking at the Givat Harel outpost just days before the elections, on October 26, 2022 (video credit: Tovah Lazaroff).

To make sure that Lapid doesn’t emerge victorious, “all efforts [must] be made to ensure one large Likud Party,” Netanyahu said.

Taking votes from Religious Zionist Party

He noted that the other parties in his camp, the United Torah Judaism, Shas and the Religious Zionist Party, would all be in his coalition, no matter how many mandates it received.

Netanyahu targeted, in particular, the RZP, led by Bezalel Smotrich and which includes the Otzma Yehudit Party headed by Itamar Ben-Gvir.  

"If Ben-Gvir and Smotrich get another mandate or two mandates, nothing changes," but the future of the elections could rest on whether or not the Likud gets a few more or less mandates, Netanyahu said.

It was not random that Netanyahu made his bid for right-wing voters to flock to his party during a rare visit to the West Bank, where RZP support has run high in the past.

In the 2021 election, Netanyahu was bested in the settlements by Religious Zionist Party leader Bezalel Smotrich who garnered the most amount of settler votes, followed by the United Torah Judaism Party which was the second most popular party. Likud came in third after those parties.  

Then there are the apathetic voters who Netanyahu hoped to shock into action. In the 2021 election, only five of the seven settler mandates went to political parties, while two mandates were lost due to the settlers who never headed to the polls.

On Wednesday, with less than a week left to the election, Netanyahu tried to capture some of those votes.

One Likud sign hanging outside the outpost stated, "66,000 residents of Judea and Samaria didn't vote in the last election. This time you have to vote."

Another Likud billboard aimed at the apathetic voters stated: "the 61st mandate is dependent on you."

To underscore the importance of his victory for this particular audience, Netanyahu characterized the danger of a left-wing Lapid-led government, particularly given that it would include Defense Minister Benny Gantz's National Resilience Party and MK Mansour Abbas' Ra'am party. 

The question is, he said, "are we continuing to exist as the Jewish nation... or are we giving the government to Mansour Abbas and the Muslim Brotherhood that wants to uproot us from here." 

Netanyahu warned that a Lapid-led coalition would place the issue of Palestinian statehood squarely in the center of Israel's foreign policy.

"The choice is between a Jewish state and those who want to build a Palestinian state," Netanyahu said in response to a question by The Jerusalem Post.

"If you want a Palestinian state, vote for them, if you want a strong Jewish state vote for us, vote Likud," Netanyahu said as he stood at a lookout point, with a panoramic view of the region's brown hilltops.  

"If you want a Palestinian state, vote for them, if you want a strong Jewish state vote for us, vote Likud."

Benjamin Netanyahu

He started the event during a brief rainstorm by speaking in the corner of a small hall in the Gvaot Winery. But he quickly rearranged the room, so that he stood more in the center, noting that this was the kind of spot he was most comfortable in.

He recalled that when he was prime minister he had broken the Palestinian chokehold on Israel's regional diplomacy, in which the going wisdom was the Jewish state had to first make peace with the Palestinians in order to forge ties with its Arab neighbors. 

During his last year in office, he was able to sideline the Palestinians, who in any event did not want to make peace with Israel by forging agreements to normalize ties with four Arab states, Netanyahu said.

 Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu is seen planting an olive tree in the Givat Harel outpost in the West Bank, on October 26, 2022. (credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF) Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu is seen planting an olive tree in the Givat Harel outpost in the West Bank, on October 26, 2022. (credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)

"We can't be allowed to need him," Netanyahu says of Gantz

He took particular issue with the defense minister, who he described as "Left," despite Gantz's reluctance to speak of Palestinian statehood. Gantz prefers the term "Palestinian entity." Netanyahu also did not address his own promise to the Trump administration to accept a future demilitarized Palestinian state in part of the West Bank. 

Netanyahu noted that he did not plan to include Gantz in his coalition, should he win the election, and that the larger the votes were for the nationalistic camp, the more unlikely it was that this step would be necessary.

"We will not need him. We must not need him. We can't be allowed to need him. We need to form a fully right-wing government," Netanyahu said.

"Benny Gantz is not our partner, our partners are those who believe like we do in the Land of Israel and want to develop it. That is RZP, Shas [and] UTJ, we are going together with them," Netanyahu said.

He pledged not to uproot settlements, to develop Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and to authorize the West Bank outposts, which he referred to as the "young settlements."

To underscore that point, he signed his name in large letters onto a public declaration to legalize what would amount to over 70 outposts, although many of them could be authorized as neighborhoods of existing settlements rather than as new settlements.

Netanyahu also planted an olive tree stapling to symbolize his commitment to ensuring the future of Givat Harel, which is located near the Shiloh settlement in the Binyamin region of the West Bank.

"Help me so I can help you, so I can help," he told the audience.

Do this, he said, "so we can help the Land of Israel, and for the future generations of the nation of Israel. Without the Land of Israel, there is no state of Israel, and without the state of Israel there is no nation of Israel."