In an election eve interview, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that while he expected the right to pull in 61 Knesset seats, “there will be surprises” if that does not happen. Hinting at further defections from Blue and White, Netanyahu said that there had been contacts. “Gadi Yevarkan is not the only Blue and White MK” who would move to the Likud.
In a weekend interview with Yisrael Hayom, Yevarkan, a member of the Ethiopian community, said that he left Blue and White and jumped to the Likud “because Benny Gantz wasn’t taking the issues of the community seriously.”
Yevarkan was 33rd on the Blue and White list for the September election, but in December decided to move to the Likud, where he was placed 20th on the list. Yevarkan said in the interview that he had attempted to persuade Blue and White leaders to relate to community issues prior to the September elections, but that Gantz “dismissed my concerns,” making him feel “like a decoration,” which the party used to appeal to Ethiopian community voters.
In the interview, Netanyahu also related to comments made by his former aide Natan Eshel, who associated the Likud’s Middle Eastern community base with racism. Recordings broadcast on Motzoei Shabbos by Channel 12 featured Eshel saying that “a campaign of hatred works among the non-Ashkenazim. Hatred unifies our camp.” He also called Culture Minister Miri Regev “an animal, although she does good work.”
Netanyahu said that he had not been aware of the comments, but “I reject them. They are disgusting. He apologized, but he did not make them on my behalf. He has not worked for me for a long time.” The Eshel recording could not be compared to the recordings released last week, in which a senior aide to Benny Gantz, Yisrael Bachar, called him a “zero” who is “dangerous for Israel.”
Eshel was now a private citizen who was entitled to his opinion, while Bachar made the comments in the midst of a campaign he was working on. “This is testimony from inside Gantz’s camp. I am not surprised that this was not revealed before. Israelis had the good fortune to hear the truth about Gantz from an insider,” Netanyahu said.