Photo Credit: Eitan Elhadez/TPS
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sarah celebrating the Likud party's victory, March 2, 2020.

The Likud Knesset faction chairman MK Mickey Zohar told News 12 on Tuesday morning that the Likud had forged “effective contacts” with elements outside the rightwing bloc ahead of the election.

“If by the end of the vote count we reach 60 seats, we can say with certainty that we will establish a government,” MK Zohar declared. “They haven’t sent me on search missions yet, and I don’t want to name names, but in politics anything can happen. Even if there weren’t talks with officials in the other camp before the election—and there were—people on the other side realize they have no future there (which is funny considering one of the Blue&White faction is named There Is a Future – DI). For them, it would be either sitting in opposition or going to a fourth election campaign that would cut them down by a few more seats.”

Blue and White party’s headquarters on elections night, Mar 2, 2020. / Kobi Richter/TPS

“If we have to bring in MKs from the opposite camp, we will certainly change the law so that no sanctions are imposed on them,” MK Zohar said. According to him, “the public clearly decided today that it wants Likud and Netanyahu to lead. If need be, we will prove it even more resolutely. If there are additional elections, we will get 65 seats and not just 61.”

“They want to bring Netanyahu down because he is the head of the rightwing camp,” MK Zohar suggested, and shared his views about Netanyahu’s ability to serve as an effective PM while facing court indictments: “The trial won’t stop Netanyahu, it’s small potatoes to him. Netanyahu was elected by the people, and not by the judicial system.”

Regarding Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Liberman’s statement that he would never sit in a Netanyahu-led government, the Likud faction chairman said: “Liberman’s statements are irresponsible. He promised there would be no fourth election. Let me assure him that the rightwing bloc will not fall apart, we’ll sign up 59-60 MKs and then we won’t need him. We’ll go on vacation and tell Israel Beiteinu: In your spare time, come to the negotiations. If they don’t want to join, the public will hit them hard and reduce the number of their seats (which it already seems to have done – DI). If he doesn’t want to come over, it would be his problem and his public will not forgive him.”

MK Miki Zohar (Likud) / Miriam Alster/FLASH90

Regarding the losing cause of Itamar Ben-Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit, MK Zohar said: “Bennett’s refusal to integrate Ben-Gvir may mean that we cannot form a 61-seat coalition government. Many in the national religious community were angry at that and moved over to us.”

Regarding the possibility that the High Court of Justice would rule that Netanyahu cannot form a government while facing criminal indictments, MK Zohar said: “Even if the High Court decides Netanyahu cannot form a government – he will remain prime minister. Nobody will form a government them, we’ll go for another election and get even more seats. Woe unto us if Netanyahu honors such a ruling.”

Which could be a problematic statement, coming as it did from a senior Likud official. At which point MK Zohar doubled down: asked about the possibility of Netanyahu being convicted and receiving a prison sentence, he said: “The people of Israel will not accept it. Netanyahu would be punished despite his being innocent. The people of Israel will give him the power to change the system. He would be a victim of the system. There would be a huge decline in the people of Israel’s faith in the courts – their level of trust would drop to zero. And we would win even more seats. You think the public would remain on the sidelines? You think the public would keep quiet? The people will rise and cry out.”

Netanyahu’s close adviser, Jonatan Urich, also told Channel 12 that Blue&White MKs are expected to jump ship:

“This time we will form a government,” Urich said. “We will pick members from the opposite side. This time we will establish a government because there will be defectors. In retrospect, I think the current election results are much better for us. It’s a good thing we went to new elections.”

As to why the other side lost, Urich said: “The story with Blue&White is not only that they didn’t have a campaign, but that they didn’t have a party. They didn’t have a product to sell. They can’t compete with the Likud, which is a party with a path and with values. Gantz is not a leader, and he is incapable of making decisions – neither on the red phone nor on his iPhone (which was reportedly stolen and hacked — DI). Blue&White ran an [expletive] campaign.”

On the possibility that Netanyahu will be convicted, Urich said: “I don’t see a chance of him being convicted in court. I know the cases, I was with Netanyahu during the time that these cases were being debated, it’s just nonsense. It’s going to be an acquittal. It’s going to an amazing trial and an unequivocal acquittal.”