Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has ruled out a coalition with the Zionist Camp, saying that “an ideological chasm extends today between the Likud and Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni.”
Netanyahu made explicit for the first time what pundits have been saying: that Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home party “will be part of a wide Likud government I will form.”
The prime minister also lashed out at newspapers that he accused of waging a smear campaign against him
“In recent weeks, the attacks on me … are published almost every hour … ridiculous, false and biased slanders against me and my wife as part of a media campaign to replace the Likud government by a left-wing one,” Netanyahu claimed in an online post.
However, senior Israeli columnist Nahum Barnea told Israel Radio that Netanyahu was “paranoid,” and that there is no conspiracy in the news media to get him out of office. He was commenting on Netanyahu’s known belief that the left-dominated Israeli media is slanted against him.
In another election development, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that he will make his Yisrael Beitenu’s partnership in any coalition contingent on his appointment as Defense minister.
Accordingly, Lieberman sought on Monday to clear the path to that post with a frontal assault on the current Defense minister, Moshe Yaalon (Likud).
“I have no doubt he was a great soldier, but unfortunately, as Defense minister, no one takes him seriously — not our Arab neighbors, not Hamas, not Hizbullah and even not the Americans,” contended Lieberman.
Yaalon belittled Lieberman’s bid for the job.
“The Defense minister’s work involves efforts,” he said. “I think that security goes beyond slogans; it takes daily work, hard work, responsible behavior and good judgment.”
Some think Yaalon has more to worry about from the direction of Naftali Bennett, who is also thought to have his eye on the Defense Ministry. As the opinion polls now stand, giving his party double that of Lieberman’s, Bennett will have far more leverage in negotiating for government portfolios than Lieberman.