“My goal is 40 seats in the next election,” Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Likud central committee members in a recording leaked to Army Radio.
Netanyahu called this year’s election results, in which the Likud got 30 seats, “a clear mandate to lead our country.”
Although Netanyahu was only able to assemble a very narrow 61-member coalition, he contended that the electoral totals masked a much greater Likud strength.
“An error happened here, and that error is simple: Six seats that were supposed to be part of the nationalist camp’s coalition went from one side to the other. I don’t think even one percent of Yisrael Beitenu voters would have voted for that party if they knew they would unite with the Left to bring down a Likud government,” he said.
Netanyahu also claimed he was not surprised that “Avigdor Lieberman took his party to the opposition. It was pretty clear early on [in coalition talks] that we didn’t have Yisrael Beitenu,” he said.
Yisrael Beitenu responded by attacking Netanyahu’s right-wing credentials, noting that in coalition talks he would not agree to their call to eliminate Hamas, pass a death penalty for terrorists, nor make a commitment to build in Yehudah and Shomron and east Yerushalayim.
“All of Netanyahu’s actions, including his emotional warning that Arabs are rushing to the voting booths on election day and his apology immediately after the election and his embarrassing wait for the Labor Party to deign to join his government prove that Yisrael Beitenu is the only nationalist right-wing alternative on the political map,” the party’s spokesman said.
Netanyahu convened the meeting to speak against an initiative to do away with Likud’s open primary and bring back the old system whereby the central committee chooses the party candidates. The proposal will be put to a vote on June 10.