On Monday night, 36 days before the election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was interviewed in the lions’ den, Channel 12 News, and shared how proud he was of his achievements in combating the Corona crisis, denied that he plans to appoint Itamar Ben-Gvir as a minister in his next government, and stressed that he would not need a French law that prevents the indictment of a serving prime minister – he plans to win his court cases.
When asked why the new President of the United States Joe Biden has yet to call him, after almost a month since the inauguration, Netanyahu said: “We have had a friendly relationship for close to 40 years. We know each other and there are many things we agree on. There are also disagreements over Iran and the Palestinians.”
“I have a great relationship with the Democrats,” Netanyahu stressed. “I see hundreds of congressmen and senators, I see fifty-fifty Democrats and Republicans. Whoever supports our policy – I am with them. I am not with those who endanger us, for example with a nuclear Iran. They listen to me quite well.”
According to the polls, it appears that the one who will decide who would be the next prime minister is Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett, who may demand a rotation for the post of prime minister. Netanyahu did not like the idea of another rotation deal.
“I think the citizens of Israel are tired of the rotation. We should establish a true right-wing government under my full leadership, I think we will win by a lot more than 61 seats.”
“We’ll see if I’ll need Bennett or not,” he added. “I think everyone has understood that it is impossible to go back to two prime ministers. No mutation and no rotation – it should be a unified government.”
Belittling the importance of Naftali Bennett, as he has done since before 2013, Netanyahu said, “I think the citizens of Israel will make sure that this (a rotation government) does not happen because I see a historic opportunity to form a right-wing government under my leadership. […] In the end, this election is about a choice between me and Yair Lapid – and that’s why there will be no rotation.”
Netanyahu clarified that as far as he is concerned, Itamar Ben Gvir will not be a minister in the next government, if he forms it: “He will not be in government at all, I guess there are certain lines he does not agree with, but I decide. He can want a lot of things but he will not be the [deciding] 61st vote because we will get more [than 61]. He is not qualified to serve as a minister in my government.”
But it was Netanyahu who pushed Smotrich to align with Ben-Gvir in his Religious Zionism Knesset list. Netanyahu believes it was a legitimate move to push to unite Bezalel Smotrich and Ben-Gvir: “It’s legitimate because I don’t want to lose votes.”
Netanyahu also made it clear that he does not intend to depend on Ra’am chairman Mansour Abbas to form a government: “I will not rely on anyone who opposes Zionism. Not even in an abstention (not voting against a Netanyahu-led coalition government in return for future favors – DI). I compete against Mansour Abbas, he is my opponent. […] I compete against Abbas who went with my opponent Lapid. He is not my partner, he is my rival.”
Netanyahu said he would not take Israel to a fifth election in two years: “I will get 61 seats,” he promised.
Netanyahu rejected the idea that his management of the Corona crisis was tainted by political considerations: “We’re going to be the first come out of this, you need to understand that,” he said. “Because of the vaccines and a fantastic health system. I want us all to come out of the crisis – Haredim, Arabs, leftists …”
Asked why a prime minister should talk to Rabbi Kanievsky’s grandson to ask him to close educational institutions during the lockdown, Netanyahu said: “There are two major sectors—the Haredim and the Arabs—I go to both and talk to their leaders. I don’t beg them, I talk to them. I call on them to get vaccinated.”
Netanyahu revealed that he is in talks with senior officials in both Pfizer and Moderna about bringing millions of additional vaccines to Israel, and believes it would be necessary to get vaccinated every year against the virus: “I want us to be in a position where all the citizens, Arabs and Jews, will go out to get vaccinated – and that they’ll also have vaccines in the future. I am in talks about establishing two factories in Israel that will make us a world center for research, development, and production of vaccines against future viruses.”
Netanyahu denied that he intended to promote a “French law” that would free him from the threat of criminal prosecution as long as he is serving. “This trial is underway and you can see how delusional and tailor-made it is,” he added, using the Hebrew term for a trumped-up prosecution. “There are conflicts of interest from here to Cyprus, launching investigations against the Prime Minister without the approval of the Attorney General in violation of a Basic Law, terrible things that it’s unbelievable such things are done, terrible things.”
“I am not looking for any plea deal because I know the truth and what is becoming clear is that there is nothing there,” Netanyahu repeated the mantra he has been reciting for more than two years.
Finally, when asked whether he would run for the post of President of Israel this summer, Netanyahu replied: “I am not interested.”