Knesset Speaker MK Yuli Edelstein, a senior Likud official, is on the war path against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose recent year or so in office has been tainted by his struggles against several police investigations and a largely hostile local media. On Sunday morning, Reshet Bet radio broadcast several recordings of Edelstein speaking in closed quarters and expressing his trepidation regarding Netanyahu’s “problematic” conduct. The speaker told major politicians from Religious Zionism circles some two and a half weeks ago that the party is destined to become an opposition party “if we continue like this.”
“It may be that Trump’s statement that if he shoots someone on Fifth Avenue it will only get him more votes has Influenced Netanyahu,” Edelstein is heard saying on the tapes.
Yuli-Yoel Edelstein, 60, was one of the most prominent refuseniks in the Soviet Union, and has served as Speaker of the Knesset since 2013. He is on the record as opposing a Palestinian State and belongs to the rightwing faction inside Likud. He is married to Israeli entrepreneur Irina Nevzlin, daughter of oligarch Leonid Nevzlin, co-owner and board member of Haaretz, whose wealth is estimated at $2 billion.
Edelstein has been mentioned as a candidate to replace Netanyahu as prime minister, should the latter be forced to resign following an indictment resulting from any of the five or six police investigations of his affairs.
Edelstein referred, among other things, to the prime minister’s recent speeches in which he attacked the media and the opposition parties. “Instead of […] talking like a prime minister,” the speaker said, referring to a recent event with members of the Likud central committee a few weeks ago, “he decided to talk about the police and [Channel 2 police reporter] Moshe Nussbaum. It’s a pity.”
He added: “This is behavior that I admit is somewhat problematic… When Netanyahu speaks as prime minister, no one disturbs him, he gets respect. But once he starts with [calling opposition members] ‘you pickles’ – then all the mess starts. Too bad it’s this way.”
Edelstein suggested the Prime Minister is frustrated by the media’s neglect of his foreign achievements: “His frustration with the issue of Israel’s foreign relations [results from the fact that] things that happen outside the State of Israel are of no interest to anyone [in country], unless it is Netanyahu’s speech at the US Congress or the UN,” the speaker said, and explained, “When you are on the inside and you see what you have done and the achievements and the [good] reactions, you say, ‘Look, we’re doing great things for the State of Israel [and no one notices] – so in this sense he has gone crazy, because he is a very popular international figure [and the local media do not cover it].”
Edelstein was also sharply critical of the Likud, and said he would be “happy to see half the members of the faction going home.”
“I think the Likud is in serious problem,” he continued, “If we continue on this path we will be in the opposition.”
Edelstein admitted that he did not raise a glass Lechayim when Trump was elected president, because “now everything really depends only on us. We must not view his Jerusalem declaration as permission to go crazy and do whatever we feel like.”