The Jerusalem Post

Netanyahu warns Likud is poised to lose election

Gantz drafts Mofaz, Meridor, Yadlin in final push


The polls do not show that the Right will have a majority that will allow Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form the next government, the Likud leader warned Sunday, two days before the polls open for Tuesday’s general election.

In a meeting of mayors who support the Likud at his Jerusalem residence, Netanyahu recalled the 1999 election that he lost to Ehud Barak.

“I was here in 1999 and I currently see a similar problem,” Netanyahu said. “If we don’t change the trend, we will lose.”

Netanyahu said 61 Knesset seats’ worth of recommenda­tions to President Reuven Rivlin are not guaranteed, because Zehut leader Moshe Feiglin refuses to commit to one side.

“President Rivlin said something simple,” Netanyahu told the mayors. “If there aren’t 61 recommenda­tions, then the largest party wins and forms the government. We don’t have 61… If there is no [majority right-wing] bloc, then [Blue and White Leaders Yair] Lapid and [Benny] Gantz are the biggest party, according to the polls in the media and according to our polls.”

Netanyahu warned that the gap between Blue and White and Likud is even larger among voters who say they are certain about their vote.

According to Netanyahu, in 2015, “the media did not hide its happiness that the Left was going to win,” which motivated people to vote for the Right, but this time, “Lapid and Gantz are going to win, but the media learned its lesson and is trying to put our people to sleep and are saying the Likud will win.

“Since when does the media encourage the Likud when they want us to lose?” he questioned.

Netanyahu repeated his promise that he will form a government with the smaller rightwing parties, including Zehut, and that Gantz will try to form a left-wing coalition with Labor and Meretz and support from Arab parties.

The meeting between mayors and Netanyahu was called an “emergency,” and he strongly encouraged the mayors to try to “wake people up,” to convince

them to vote, to make sure the Likud is the biggest party and to “save the right-wing government.”

Netanyahu held a subsequent “emergency meeting” with Likud MKs, which ended after press time.

Earlier Sunday, he held a meeting with activists from Israel’s LGBT community for the first time in 10 years, promising to take action to help them – to a point.

“I hear you,” Netanyahu said at the meeting in his residence in Jerusalem. “I will act for you. I think it’s a humane step to take.”

However, the activists said the prime minister stopped short of committing to setting equal rights for gay and transgende­r Israelis as a condition for any coalition agreement, expressing concern that religious parties will not agree to it.

Netanyahu called the problems of LGBT youth “the most acute, the most heartbreak­ing,” and repeated his commitment to keep the education portfolio for a Likud minister, as opposed to more conservati­ve parties.

Likud MK Amir Ohana, who is gay, said the meeting set an important precedent.

“Likud plans to act to continue to promote LGBT issues. The bigger Likud is, the less it will have to depend on small parties that hold different views,” he said.

Likud Pride chairman Evan Cohen said, “The prime minister and his wife emphasized the most central issue – the community’s youth and the difficulti­es they face. The prime minister’s goal to keep the education portfolio with the Likud can allow a great battle against homophobia in general and specifical­ly protect our youth.”

LGBT rights organizati­ons formed a joint elections task force after this week’s election was called, and have met with the leaders of all non-religious parties that have passed the threshold in polls, except for Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman.

Ohad Hizki, director-general of The Aguda – Israel’s LGBT Task Force, said: “There is political and public importance to the existence of a direct dialogue with the prime minister, and we hope the nice and positive statements we heard today will be translated into legislatio­n in the coming term and into standing for our right to equality, and will not turn into empty promises like we have heard so far.”

Elisha Alexander, director-general of the transgende­r rights organizati­on Ma’avarim, said Netanyahu was unfamiliar with the issues facing transgende­r and gender-queer people, and expressed hope for a change after he learned of discrimina­tion against them in the workplace and their high suicide rate.

Last year, the gay community protested against a law that expanded the right to hire a surrogate to carry a fetus for a single women, as opposed to only married women, effectivel­y allowing gay women to use surrogacy services, but not men. Netanyahu promised to amend the law to include men, as well, but then voted against it.

Blue and White’s spokesman said that Netanyahu is continuing to lie to LGBT Israelis, citing the surrogacy issue.

“As [Blue and White leader] Benny Gantz promised in his meeting with gay community representa­tives, a government under his leadership will not allow any party in the coalition the veto power against promoting gay rights,” the party stated. “Therefore, the choice is clear: Bibi’s dark government… or a Blue and White government that will put an end to discrimina­tion.”

Gantz mocked Netanyahu’s announceme­nt that he intends to annex West Bank settlement­s after Tuesday’s election as “political spin.”

Netanyahu made the announceme­nt on Saturday night in what was seen as part of an effort to woo voters from the Likud’s satellite parties on the Right.

“I am not in favor of making strategic announceme­nts as a trial balloon a few days before the election,” Gantz told Army Radio. “It is not real. He had 13 years to do it, and he didn’t do it. It is interestin­g that he decided to do it now out of all times.”

Gantz said Netanyahu made the announceme­nt because he is worried about being replaced as prime minister.

Asked about his own plans for the West Bank, Gantz said: “I support attempting to reach a peace agreement with security and diplomatic principles in which the Jordan Valley is our eastern security border, Jerusalem is our capital and the settlement blocs are in our hands. Nothing would happen unilateral­ly.”

Blue and White party received the backing of another IDF chief of staff Sunday, former Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz.

Mofaz joins former chiefs of staff Gantz, Moshe Ya’alon and Gabi Ashkenazi, who are the first, third and fourth candidates on the Blue and White list for Knesset in Tuesday’s election.

Blue and White also received an endorsemen­t from former minister Dan Meridor, who was finance minister in Netanyahu’s first term and was prime minister Menachem Begin’s cabinet secretary, and former IDF intelligen­ce chief Amos Yadlin, who was the Zionist Union’s candidate for defense minister in the 2015 election. Both Mofaz and Meridor were ministers in Likud but Mofaz left for Kadima and Meridor for the Center Party.

At a Tel Aviv rally alongside Mofaz, Meridor and Yadlin, Gantz said Blue and White’s leadership on the security issue was unpreceden­ted.

“There is a historic need for change,” Gantz said. “We have to be the largest party. Every vote matters. We haven’t won yet but we will.” •

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