Sa'ar, Bennett escalate attacks on each other

Netanyahu vows to appoint Arab minister.

New Hope Party leader Gideon Sa'ar and Yamina Party leader Naftali Bennett. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
New Hope Party leader Gideon Sa'ar and Yamina Party leader Naftali Bennett.
Prime ministerial candidates Gideon Sa’ar and Naftali Bennett intensified their attacks on each other over the weekend, as their campaigns got into high gear following the submission of lists for the March 23 election.
In an interview with Channel 12’s Meet the Press program on Saturday night, Sa’ar (New Hope) blasted Bennett (Yamina) for not ruling out joining a government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as Sa’ar has.
“If Bennett would just say what I say and rule out sitting under Netanyahu, it would be clear to all that there was no chance Netanyahu could form a government,” Sa’ar said.
Yamina revealed that it would soon begin a campaign presenting Sa’ar as dull and lacking charisma and leadership.
“We will escalate our response to him, because he has gone way too far,” a source close to Bennett said on Saturday night.
Sa’ar also ruled out sitting in a coalition with Otzma Yehudit Party leader Itamar Ben-Gvir, who is running on the Religious Zionist Party list.
Otzma Yehudit responded that “Sa’ar cannot scold us, because he is laying the groundwork for a coalition with the Left, including Meretz MKs who have visited the grave of arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat to pay homage to him.”
Ben-Gvir said he would not be part of a coalition that relies on votes from Ra’am (United Arab List), an Arab party that broke off from the Joint List over Ra’am’s willingness to cooperate with right-wing parties.
Netanyahu announced on Friday that he intends to appoint Likud’s Knesset candidate Nael Zoabi as a minister in his next government.
Speaking with Zoabi at his official residence in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said Zoabi would be appointed as the minister in charge of advancing Arab society in Israel.
“I am proud that Nael Zoabi, a respected educator who has dedicated his life to advancing Arab society, has joined the Likud,” Netanyahu said.
After weeks of high-profile speculation, Netanyahu revealed that Zoabi would be the Likud’s first-ever Arab candidate. But he placed Zoabi in the unrealistic 39th slot on the party’s list.
The first polls taken following the closing of the Knesset lists of the 39 parties running in the election gave the Likud a commanding lead.
The polls, which were broadcast on Friday night by Channels 12 and 13, predicted 29-30 seats for Likud, 17 for Yesh Atid, 13-14 for New Hope, 11 for Yamina, 7-8 for Shas, 6-7 for United Torah Judaism, 6-7 for Labor, 5-7 for Yisrael Beytenu, 4-5 for the Religious Zionist Party and 4 each for Blue and White and Meretz.
The Arab parties fared poorly in the poll following the split of the Joint List. The Joint List was predicted to win nine in the Channel 12 poll and seven by the Channel 13 poll, which had Ra’am crossing the 3.25% electoral threshold.
The New Economic Party by former Finance Ministry accountant-general Yaron Zelekha was not expected to pass the electoral threshold in either of Friday’s polls.
Idan Zonshine contributed to this report.