Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in broadcast remarks on Tuesday there was a “huge, worldwide effort” to ensure he loses next week’s closely contested election.
Army Radio, which aired what it said were comments he made on Monday to activists of his Likud party, interpreted them as referring to foreign funding for advocacy groups campaigning for a change of government in Israel.
Political parties in Israel are banned from accepting money directly from overseas donors during an election campaign. But such funding is allowed under Israeli law for non-profit organizations espousing political viewpoints, and U.S. consultants have advised Israeli candidates for years.
Netanyahu and the Likud have alleged that groups such as V15, an organization dedicated to removing Netanyahu from power, are being funded by millions of dollars coming in from abroad.
Last month, the Likud asked State Attorney Shai Nitzan to probe whether V15 was acting in accordance with campaign finance laws. But Nitzan said he found no connection between V15 and any particular party, which would have been illegal.
“It is a very tight race. Nothing is guaranteed because there is a huge, worldwide effort to topple the Likud government,” said Netanyahu
Likud and the center-left Zionist Union are running neck-and-neck in opinion polls ahead of the March 17 ballot, with Netanyahu widely seen by political commentators as having a better chance of forming a governing coalition after the vote.
As election day approaches, “Netanyahu is feeling the pressure … he is shooting in all directions,” Zionist Camp leader Isaac Herzog told Israel Radio.