Netanyahu Grants Rare Radio Interview to Bolster Campaign

YERUSHALAYIM -

As Likud-Beiteinu’s formerly runaway lead in the polls continued to disintegrate, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu granted a rare interview on Israel Radio on Sunday morning to appeal to voters to stay with him.

“I believe there is only one way to ensure the right remains in power in Israel, and that is to vote for me, for the joint Likud-Yisrael Beitenu list,” Netanyahu said. “Any other vote by those who want me as prime minister and don’t vote for me increases the chance that the left will return to govern and lead the country instead of us.”

Over the weekend, former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, head of the centrist Movement party, said she and leaders of Yesh Atid and Labor would “discuss the creation of a united front to work together to replace Netanyahu.”

The prospects of such a coalition are dubious in view of the fractured center-left landscape. Livni herself provoked criticism from Yesh Atid founder Yair Lapid and others for establishing her own party rather than joining an existing one. Lapid attributed the decision to Livni’s ego.

Opinion polls say the three parties could win a combined  37 Knesset seats — two more than the number now projected for Likud-Beitenu. That conjures up a possibility, almost unimaginable a short time ago, that they, not Netanyahu, could be asked by Israeli President Shimon Peres to form a new government after the elections.

On the right, a radio poll on Thursday showed Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home party surging to as many as 18 seats, largely at the expense of Likud-Beitenu.

To make life even more miserable for Netanyahu, he was again the target of harsh criticism by Yuval Diskin, former head of Israel’s internal security service, who said in a front-page newspaper interview on Friday that the prime minister was wavering and weak.

Last year, Diskin warned that Netanyahu was seeking a “messianic” war with Iran.

“Preventing a nuclear Iran is my central goal in the next term,” said Netanyahu.

“I am convinced we deserve a better leadership that’s braver and more moral, and that sets a better personal example,” Diskin said. “If I cause the Israeli voter to think twice before choosing parties and leaders that are not worthy because they are actually not leading us where we should be going, I’ve done my part.”

He said he formed his opinion “based on dozens of discussions with many people more or less of my rank” who feel “a lack of security, lack of trust and lack of appreciation” for the current administration.

Asked about Diskin’s allegations, Netanyahu said in the Israel Radio interview: “They say I am on a messianic mission. Let me tell you something — I am on a mission. It is not messianic. It is clear-eyed.”

Netanyahu assured listeners that the high-echelon discussions about Iran “are the most responsible, serious and comprehensive” in the state’s history.

Netanyahu’s office responded by characterizing Diskin’s comments as “baseless” and attributed them to his frustration over being passed over to head the prestigious Mossad.