Religious Zionist Party leader MK Bezalel Smotrich canceled his participation in The Jerusalem Post Leaders’ Conference on Monday, after a recording of him calling opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu the “liar of all liars” was leaked on Sunday night, causing an uproar.
In the recording, which was revealed by KAN News, Smotrich is heard calling Netanyahu a liar for denying that he had tried to form a government with the Arab-Israeli party Ra’am (United Arab List) following the previous election.
“If I wanted to take two seats away from Bibi, I should have attacked him,” Smotrich said in the recording, which was said to have taken place in the past year. “He is the liar of all liars.”
“He didn’t want to go with Ra’am? Oh boy did he want to!” he said in the recording. “I was the only one to stand my ground, and I would have gained two extra seats.”
“He didn’t want to go with Ra’am?! Oh boy did he want to. I was the only one to stand my ground, and I would have gained two extra seats.”Bezalel Smotrich
Netanyahu has argued all along, including at an elections conference hosted by Channel 14 on Sunday, that during negotiations over the formation of the previous government, he had never agreed to Ra’am joining the coalition. Since the Bennett-Lapid government took power in June 2021 with Ra’am as part of the coalition, Netanyahu has blamed Ra’am for being “terror supporters” and criticized Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz for being dependent on the “Muslim Brotherhood.”
The tapes show that Netanyahu lied.
“Even if Netanyahu was willing to give less [to Ra’am], it does not make a difference once he agreed to form a government with them, since ultimately, he is dependent on them,” Smotrich said in the recording. “So what difference does it make? In the first stage, he would have given less, and afterward, he would have given them everything – because otherwise, they would have toppled the government and led to elections. But I am toeing the line with his narrative because it serves what I think is good for the people of Israel.”
“Netanyahu will not remain here forever,” he said later in the recording. “Physics and biology will do their work. At some point, he will be convicted in court or something – have some patience. There is no doubt that Netanyahu is trouble, okay? But you must choose between troubles.”
According to his spokesperson, Smotrich’s last-minute cancellation of his appearance at the conference was because of an “important meeting in the North.”
In a statement issued on Sunday evening, his Religious Zionism Party said that “Smotrich and Netanyahu are working in complete coordination and together successfully led the struggle to topple the bad government of Lapid-Bennett with the Muslim Brotherhood.”
“It is not surprising that there are those who are trying to drive a wedge within the national camp out of stress and panic that the Right will return to power, as all the polls are showing,” Smotrich said in the statement. “We will continue to work in full cooperation until victory and the formation of a national, Zionist, Jewish government.”
Ra’am chairman Mansour Abbas told KAN News that “this is another testimony that proves the truth of what I said throughout the past year: The Likud offered us a full coalition agreement and promised a strategic political partnership.”
“This is another testimony that proves the truth of what I said throughout the past year: The Likud offered us a full coalition agreement and promised a strategic political partnership.”Mansour Abbas
In response, the Likud said in a statement that this is a “false spin that is meant to help Lapid legitimize the government he wants to form again with Mansour Abbas and the Muslim Brotherhood. This lie is also intended to shrink the Likud for Yesh Atid to be the biggest party and receive the mandate to form a government.”
Likud MK Avi Dichter said Smotrich was a “tireless subverter,” a term made famous by former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin against his political rival Shimon Peres.
Likud MK Ofir Akunis accused Smotrich of leaking the recording to harm Netanyahu.
Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, the chairman of Yisrael Beytenu, repeated this claim at The Jerusalem Post Leaders’ Conference on Monday.
Netanyahu waited until Monday to issue a response.
“Lapid wants to be the biggest party to receive the mandate to form a government,” he said. “The only way to stop Lapid and Abbas’s plan is for the Likud to be the biggest party, with the highest margin possible. Therefore, I pardon Smotrich for his harmful comments. We need to stop attacking each other.”
Smotrich’s political partner, Otzma Yehudit chairman Itamar Ben-Gvir, said at The Jerusalem Post Leaders’ Conference that although he did not like what he heard on the recordings, it served as a reminder that only voting for him and Smotrich would ensure a right-wing government.