“Let him bring 20 chiefs of staff, nobody can beat Netanyahu on security,” said Likud lawmaker David Bitan.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
Former coalition head David Bitan rejected the idea that the new Israel Resilience party, headed by former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, is a danger to the Likud.
Speaking Saturday night at a cultural event in Tel Aviv, the senior party official was adamant that the kickoff campaign speech made by Gantz last Wednesday proves he is no threat to the right and is actually splitting the left-wing camp.
A Hadashot poll following Gantz’s launch address, however, showed his party getting 21 seats to the Likud’s 30 – and if on a joint list with Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, which is currently in negotiations, it would beat Likud by five seats.
“For my part, let Gantz bring another 20 chiefs of staff, nobody can beat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on security,” Bitan said, adding that he was still waiting for serious content to emerge from the new politician’s electioneering.
“I am waiting for Gantz to start answering questions from journalists and to sit in the studios instead of reading out messages that were written out for him,” he added.
Bitan also dismissed the idea of uniting the right in reaction to polls showing the threat a united Left-Center bloc would pose to Likud.
“All the right-wing parties will pass the vote threshold,” he said. Nonetheless, he took a swipe at former senior Likud minister Moshe Kahlon, who formed his own Kulanu party and joined the government as finance minister this past term. “For my part, I hope Kahlon doesn’t pass [the threshold],” he said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reportedly considering various ways to consolidate right-wing parties with the Likud to withstand a possible threat from his challengers.
During the primary elections on Tuesday, Netanyahu sent a letter to party members seeking their formal approval to enable him to appoint three candidates to the Knesset list as opposed to the single seat he is currently allowed. His request for personal choices to fill the 21st, 28th and 36th spots is being seen as a possible move to unite the Likud with either the New Right party of Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked or the national religious Jewish Home party.
The New Right and Jewish Home have both denied that discussions are ongoing about a combined list with Likud.