Forty placards of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – each with the name of a Likud MK or member attached – appeared early Monday outside Metzudat Ze’ev, the Likud’s national headquarters, located in Tel Aviv. In a statement, the Democratic Camp party – led by Nitzan Horowitz, Stav Shafir and Ehud Barak – said that it was their “tribute” to the loyalty Netanyahu engendered among Likud members.
“The Likud on Sunday turned officially into the ‘Netanyahu puppet party,’” after all Likud MKs signed a document stating they would support only Netanyahu for the office of prime minister. “These puppets signed a document that shows that they have abandoned their ideology and their ability to think for themselves – preferring their loyalty to Netanyahu over their loyalty to Israel and its citizens.”
The document signed by the Likud members states that under all circumstances, MKs will look to Netanyahu to form a government if the Likud is the largest party in the Knesset, and that there are no plans to replace him. The document comes in the wake of rumors that members of the Blue and White party have been reaching out to Likud MKs in an attempt to convince them to back someone other than Netanyahu for the prime minister’s seat. While the Likud would have the right of first refusal to form a government in the event it wins the election, there is no requirement that the head of the list be given the job of forming a government.
The document, said Likud MK Miki Zohar, will put an end to those Blue and White “poaching” attempts. “The prime minister was chosen for his ability to lead Israel, and because he is a better leader than others. Likud members are taking into consideration only the best outcome for all Israelis, and as a result have decided that only Netanyahu can lead the party. Likud members have always looked out for the head of their party, unlike on the left, where they have a record of removing their leaders from their posts,” he wrote in a social media post.
In a statement, Blue and White told Yediot Acharonot that despite the support for Netanyahu, it would continue to approach Likud MKs. “The Likud is preparing for the ‘day after’ Netanyahu,” the party said. “No document will be able to stop these efforts, or the talks that are ongoing between us and Likud members.”
The document has raised a storm of controversy on the left, which is accusing Netanyahu of trying to become a dictator. In a social media post, Kan News senior political commentator Moti Gilat accused Netanyahu of “Putin-like” behavior. “After some recent meetings with his good friend Vladimir Putin, Netanyahu is beginning to learn how to ‘handle’ democracy – how to put down political rebellions, how to intimidate his allies, how to threaten those not judged loyal enough, and how to ensure their loyalty through loyalty oaths. This is happening here, in the Likud, not in Moscow or the Kremlin, and without shame,” he said.