In a wide-ranging interview with Army Radio on Sunday, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu reacted to attempts by parties on the Left and in the Center to forge a united front ahead of the Jan. 22 elections. “This happens again and again,” the prime minister said. “They are trying to bring down my government. They will do anything to topple me.”
Over the weekend, Hatnuah party Chairwoman Tzipi Livni called on her center-left counterparts, Labor’s Shelly Yachimovich and Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid, to form a united bloc that would prevent Netanyahu from forming a coalition. Yachimovich has agreed to meet with Livni to discuss the matter, while Lapid has gone on the record saying he is open to joining a Netanyahu-led coalition.
“Two of the parties are overtly left-wing,” Netanyahu said.
“On economics they are as leftist as Greece and Spain. And if the diplomatic Left is willing to make concessions and hand over territory, that land will be grabbed by Iran and its proxies.
“The Left is organizing itself to bring me down. They want to have a left-wing bloc that will prevent me from forming a coalition. What happened on television over the weekend threw into relief the real choice that exists here, between right and left-wing parties, and not between the Right and left-center parties.
“We’re dealing with real issues. It’s not child’s play. The tremendous challenges that I see around me, the huge security shake-up: Syria, Iran’s nuclear program and Hamas. We are confronting all these situations, not to mention the global economic crisis, which is not over.”
Netanyhau urged voters to vote for the Likud party and not smaller parties.
“In order to deal with these challenges I need a large and strong party behind me,” Netanyahu said. “This is what gives me political stability. Big things that need to be done have never been done by small parties. We need a big governing party.”
Netanyahu said that he had not ruled out anyone for ministerial positions.
“I will lead the diplomatic process, and therefore Livni will not be foreign minister,” he said. “I am not giving out jobs; I haven’t been elected [yet]. Perhaps she wants to be a minister of one kind or another. But what she said is that she wants to bring down this government.”
In a separate interview over the weekend, when asked whether Livni could be a minister in his government, Netanyahu replied, “Yes, she could be a minister. But I would lead our policies on the Palestinians. I haven’t ruled out Bennett [Naftali, the head of the rightist Habayit Hayehudi party] either.”
Asked whether Yachimovich could be finance minister, he said, “For the sake of the Israeli economy I think it would be best if we continued with the responsible and successful path we have forged until now.”
Meanwhile, Meretz party leader Zehava Gal-On said at the weekend, “Meretz will not support [a left-center bloc] until Livni promises not to sit with Bibi or Bennett in the government.”
Shas, for its part, is afraid that the prime minister will build a coalition without the ultra-Orthodox.
“The attempt to create a bloc that opposes Netanyahu, along with Lapid’s recent statements, must concern everyone who fears a Likud-Lapid government on the 2003 model,” Housing Minister Ariel Atias said, referring to when Lapid’s father Tommy Lapid, an arch-secularist, joined a Likud-led coalition to the chagrin of the ultra-Orthodox parties.
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