New Hope leader Gideon Sa'ar issued an unprecedented attack on Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett on Monday morning, hours after Bennett signed a document ruling out joining a government led by opposition leader Yair Lapid.
Both Sa'ar and Bennett had made commitments more than a month ago to not sit in a Lapid-led government. Sources close to Bennett said he had changed nothing by putting the vow in print.
But Sa'ar took advantage of the letter to criticize his rival for votes on the Right and accuse Bennett of making an alliance with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"Now it is already clear, several meters before the finish line: Bennett collapsed into the arms of Netanyahu amid lies and political spin created by his master," Sa'ar wrote on Twitter. "He failed in leadership. He failed in standing under pressure."
Sources close to Sa'ar said he was angry at Bennett for signing any document after he mocked Netanyahu's requests to do so and because Sa'ar had evidence that Bennett had leaked a fake poll that said New Hope may not cross the electoral threshold.In an interview with Channel 12, Sa'ar called Bennett "a despicable cheat."Sa'ar clarified that he does not rule out rotating in the Prime Minister's Office with either Lapid or Bennett.Netanyahu responded to Sa'ar by telling Army Radio that Sa'ar had "let the cat out of the bag" and "revealed what he had been hiding.""Now that Bennett and Gideon are collapsing in the polls, they are starting to tell the truth," Netanyahu said. "Voting for them will bring a government with Lapid and a fifth election."
Bennett's associates downplayed the letter, saying its only headline was its second part, in which Bennett promised not to form a government using the votes of Ra'am (United Arab List) party head Mansour Abbas.
Lapid also said he was not concerned about Bennett's letter."There is a difference between Bennett on TV and radio and Bennett in private," Lapid told KAN Radio.
The Likud released a statement complaining that Bennett had said nothing new.
"Bennett continues to avoid promising what we have been asking him for weeks," the Likud statement said. "He needs to rule out any government in which Lapid will take part. Whoever votes Likud will get Bennett in a stable, right-wing government. Whoever votes Bennett will get Bennett in a government with Lapid."