Tapes Show Netanyahu Worried About Competition From Gantz, Bennett

The Knesset building in Yerushalayim. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

In meetings with Likud officials, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has expressed concern over the loss of Likud mandates to both Benny Gantz and Naftali Bennett, both of whom in recent days have announced the establishment of new parties. “Woe unto us if these parties take votes from the Likud,” Netanyahu said in recordings that were broadcast by Kan News.

The loss of Knesset seats from the Likud and the strengthening of these two parties “can bring us to a situation that I would rather not describe,” Netanyahu is heard saying. “The critical issue is the establishment of a government, that is all I am interested in.” In another recording, Netanyahu said that “the problem is five mandates to the right, and five to the left,” describing the potential loss of Likud votes to Gantz’s Resilience Party and Bennett’s New Right Party. “The problem on the left is perhaps more complicated, because there all the decisions are being made by one man [Gantz].”

In response, the Resilience Party said that “the time has come for Israel to get leadership that is concerned with the fate of Israelis, not the fate of itself.” The New Right did not comment on the Netanyahu statements, but on Sunday Channel 20 reported that Bennett’s New Right partner Ayelet Shaked told potential supporters that the New Right’s intent is not to take votes from her former Jewish Home party, but from other parties, especially the Likud.

Meanwhile, United Torah Judaism said Wednesday that rumors of its demise were greatly exaggerated, and that a request by the party to dissolve itself into the components of its whole – Agudas Yisrael and Degel HaTorah – was a procedural one. “This occurred in the last election as well,” the party said. “The purpose is to increase the amount of election campaign funding available,” with the amount provided by the State Election Committee incrementally higher for two factions instead of a single one. The move will have no impact on UTJ’s competing in the upcoming election as a single list, the party said.