On the verge of being replaced after 12 years in power, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is waging a desperate, Trump-style campaign to de-legitimize the incoming government and accuse its leaders of committing “century-old fraud.”
Why it matters: The situation has become so tense – with members of the Israeli Knesset facing death threats and demonstrations by angry Netanyahu supporters outside their homes – that the director of Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security agency issued a rare warning of potential political violence.
Background: Netanyahu failed to form a government after Israel’s fourth consecutive election in March, after which Naftali Bennett ̵
- Netanyahu’s best hope of sabotaging the new government involves convincing members of Bennett’s Yamina party to abandon the alliance before it can be sworn in.
- But some members of Netanyahu’s base seem to be taking this pressure to an extreme. Yamina members were given full security information after – in addition to death threats and protests outside their homes – a member was followed by a suspicious car for an entire day.
What they say: Netanyahu initially refused to condemn the incitement against Bennett and his allies, but on Monday afternoon he condemned the violent rhetoric from “all sides” and erroneously claimed that the media had refused to cover similar incitement against his family.
- He said the accusations of incitement were a biased attempt to silence the right wing and complained that Facebook and Twitter had suspended the accounts of his son and several of his followers.
- The speech made comparisons to the video released by Donald Trump during the January 6 Capitol uprising, in which he urged protesters to “go home” while praising them and reiterating his false claim that he won in a “landslide” . “
In Monday’s speech Netanyahu also doubled his attacks on Bennett, saying his power-sharing government with opposition leader Yair Lapid was “the biggest election fraud in history.”
- Netanyahu referred to the fact that during the campaign, Bennett had promised not to go along with Lapid.
- Although the incoming government will mainly include centrist and right-wing members, Netanyahu called it “a dangerous left-wing government” and told its party members, “do not be afraid to go after them.”
The other side: Bennett responded with his own speech during the evening news, repeating the tone used by Joe Biden on January 6, urging Netanyahu to commit to a peaceful transfer of power.
- “Mr. Netanyahu, do not leave burnt earth after you,” Bennett said.
- While Bennett was speaking, Netanyahu appeared live on the Israeli equivalent of the right-wing One America News channel, calling Bennett a “liar” and a “fraud.”
- Netanyahu’s Likud party has also claimed on Twitter (in English) that Bennett and Lapid would turn Israel into a “dark dictatorship” similar to North Korea.
What to see: Bennett and Lapid need to survive a vote of confidence in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, to ensure they take power.
- Knesset speaker Yariv Levin, an ally from Netanyahu, was caught on a hot microphone saying he would schedule that vote when it “serves us best”, rather than following the tradition of scheduling it as soon as possible.
- Levin announced Tuesday that the vote would be Sunday, forcing Bennett and Lapid to submit their final coalition agreement two days before the vote instead of one because they cannot present it on a Saturday.
- It gives Netanyahu’s Likud party more time to examine and criticize the deal in hopes of convincing right-wing members of the new coalition to abandon it.
What’s next: If the trust vote is successful, the inauguration of the new government will take place on Sunday at. 9 ET. Netanyahu is expected to deliver a speech in advance and attack the incoming government.
- Monday morning, Bennett is expected to enter the prime minister’s office at an official ceremony. Normally, the outgoing prime minister attends to congratulate his successor, but it is unclear whether Netanyahu will do so.