Photo Credit: Reuven Kastro / POOL
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, February 8, 2021.

In a rare moment of truth, Prime Minister Netanyahu revealed just how much contempt he feels for the two people who gave him back his political life in 2009, his campaign manager Naftali Bennett and his chief of staff Ayelet Shaked. In an interview he gave Makor Rishon on Sunday (“רק אני יכול להקים ממשלת ימין יציבה”) Netanyahu referred to them as representatives of the erring Religious Zionist voters and said they “remind me of people who get smacked and smacked again and come back for more smacking.”

“The ones who are caring today about religious Zionists are the Likud and also the Religious Zionist Party,” Netanyahu continued. As to Yamina chairman Bennett, who is expected to position himself to the PM’s right with between 9 and 12 seats, and without whom Netanyahu will not be able to form a coalition government, he said: “Bennett will serve in my government with a respectable portfolio, but the ones who provided [the religious Zionist communities’] budgets so far have been me and my friends in the Likud.”


And he added in about as paternalistic a tone as can be, “The Religious Zionist sector is not close to us, it is part of us. We embrace the same values and work for the same goals. And there is no prime minister who, like me, has withstood great pressures and pushed back displacements and evictions in Judea and Samaria.”

Other than the ones he allowed, including countless outposts that continue to be harassed regularly by his various government ministers.

Netanyahu used his final big interview to the National Religious press for an unrestrained trashing of the very people he hopes to lure into his next government – which explains why his three right-wing opponents are also his former close associates: Bennett his chief of staff; Avigdor Liberman, his first CEO of the prime minister’s office; and Gideon Sa’ar, his interior minister. And why two out of the three—Liberman and Sa’ar—have vowed not to sit in his government, ever.

“You have to ask yourselves which government will be formed here,” Netanyahu said to Makor Rishon. “I am the only one who can form a stable right-wing government that will both take care of the economy and act in the face of scandalous decisions like The Hague. But if you vote for Bennett or Gideon or Liberman, you are going to get Lapid in a rotation government with Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), who justifies the decision to prosecute IDF soldiers as war criminals. There is no other option.”

Asked if he trusts Bennett’s commitment not to sit in a left-wing government, Netanyahu, who is known to have reneged on most of his promises over the years (changing the political system, imposing sovereignty, the list is very long), answered: “He can’t say that. He cannot be prime minister with five, ten, and even 15 seats, which he will not get. I will not have a rotation government. So if Bennett joins Sa’ar, then what? What will they do with twenty seats together? Where will they get 61? They’ll need Meretz, they’ll need Labor and Lapid. And Lapid will charge them a good price.”

Netanyahu is not wrong, of course. Lapid, expected to get about 20 seats, and his two right-wing partners, Bennett and Sa’ar, should have 40 seats together. If they add Liberman’s Israel Beiteinu they’re at 47. But adding Liberman also means they can’t try to lure in the Haredim, unless Liberman is willing to abandon his core agenda of making the Haredim serve in the IDF. So where do Lapid, Bennett, and Sa’ar get their needed 14 seats? Let’s say Blue&White gets over the threshold percentage with 5 seats. Now they’ll need 9 for a 61-seat coalition. Can they take in Labor with its 2-State agenda and anti-settlements attitude? Maybe. Labor is expected to win 6 seats. Still 3 short. Can they lure Likud MKs to jump ship? Maybe, but Bibi can also go fishing on their end of the bay, and he has better bait to put on his hook.


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