Israel Elections: Netanyahu vows there won't be a fifth election

Netanyahu's comments were made after a 'Post' poll indicated that neither bloc would achieve the majority of 61 MKs needed to govern.

PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu holds a press conference at the Health Ministry in Jerusalem in December. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu holds a press conference at the Health Ministry in Jerusalem in December.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Ten days ahead of the March 23 election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday night that he was certain that a conclusive result would be reached and a fifth election in just over two years would not be initiated.
Netanyahu spoke following a Panels Research poll published over the weekend in The Jerusalem Post and Maariv that indicated that neither bloc would achieve the majority 61 MKs needed to govern unless political promises are broken, such as Yamina’s not to sit in a government with Meretz and the Religious Zionist Party’s vow to not enable a government backed from outside the coalition by the Ra’am (United Arab List) Party.
Speaking in an interview with Channel 13’s Ayala Hasson, Netanyahu cited internal polls that found that the Likud’s supporters are firm, while those of Yamina and New Hope were much less certain about their vote.
A senior Likud official said the party’s polls ask respondents how sure they are that they will vote at all and how resolute they are about backing their party of choice.
The internal polls, which were obtained by the Post, found that more than 80% of Likud voters are sure about their vote, while among Yamina’s 51.3% are firm and New Hope’s have gradually fallen to only 29.5% definite.
For Netanyahu to form a government, he would need there to be 61 MKs from Likud, Shas, United Torah Judaism, the Religious Zionist Party and Yamina, up from the 57 indicated by Friday’s poll.
Sources in Yamina have said party leader Naftali Bennett would demand a rotation in the Prime Minister’s Office to enable Netanyahu to form a government. Netanyahu ruled out that option in the interview. Likud officials said he would instead seek defectors to Likud from Yamina and New Hope.
Religious Zionist Party head Bezalel Smotrich told the Post on Friday that “under no circumstances” would he permit any cooperation whatsoever with Ra’am head Mansour Abbas, even if it could enable the formation of an exclusively right-wing government.
If Netanyahu built a 61-MK coalition with a narrow majority, he would have to rely on the support of controversial far right Otzma Yehudit Party head Itamar Ben-Gvir, who is third on the Religious Zionist Party list.
Ben-Gvir told Channel 12’s Meet the Press program on Saturday night that to give Netanyahu a majority, he would demand to be appointed a minister. He said he would ask for a new portfolio to be crafted that would put him in charge of protecting Jews in the Negev and Galilee from Arab violence and theft.
Ben-Gvir also said he would try to pass a bill that would grant the prime minister and his cabinet immunity from prosecution. Besides Netanyahu, Shas leader Arye Deri’s investigations could be frozen if such a law passed.
“I wouldn’t be doing it for Netanyahu or Deri,” Ben-Gvir said. “I would do it to ensure that no minister is held hostage by the attorney-general and the prosecution.”
Ra’am passed the 3.25% electoral threshold in a Panels poll on Friday for the first time since the Joint List broke up. On Saturday, Abbas opted out of a surplus vote-sharing agreement with the Joint List, which expressed outrage at his decision.
“This move is part of Netanyahu’s efforts to harm the Joint List and ensure that there would be less Arab representation in the Knesset,” the Joint List said in a statement. “This is further proof that Abbas is playing games on behalf of Netanyahu.”