The prime minister would not agree to the Otzma Yehudit party’s demand for Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount.
By Atara Beck, World Israel News
In an emergency meeting called by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Saturday night, in which he attacked the Blue and White party for attempting to “steal the election,” the Israeli leader rejected the opposition’s claim that he would do anything in order to win.
In his defense, he said that Itamar Ben-Gvir, leader of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party – which, in the past two elections, did not have enough votes to enter the Knesset – had offered to withdraw his candidacy and throw his support behind the Likud party, but his one condition was unacceptable to the prime minister.
Although Otzma’s withdrawal could have resulted in tens of thousands more votes for Netanyahu’s Likud, the prime minister said, he could not agree to the demand to allow Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount because it would have “ignited the Middle East and brought the wrath of billions of Muslims down on us.”
“I said there’s a limit. There are some things that I am not prepared to do… I protect the State of Israel,” he declared.
The Temple Mount, the site of the two ancient Holy Temples, is Judaism’s holiest site and Islam’s third-holiest, after Mecca and Medina.
The final election results showed Likud with 36 seats and Benny Gantz’s Blue and White with 33. Likud and its right-wing partners would total 58 seats – three short of the 61 required to form a coalition government.
Otzma’s votes, Netanyahu said, would have given the right an additional seat, which “would have changed the situation entirely.”
“But apparently, our rival, they have no limits,” he continued. The Blue and White leaders – “Benny Gantz, [Moshe] Boogie Yaalon, Gabi Askenazi… promised before the elections said they would not rely in any shape or form on the Arab Joint List because they’re supporters of terror,” but now the opposition justifies a partnership with the Arab List, which won 15 seats, because the “principle” to drive Netanyahu from power overrides all others.
Netanyahu clarified his position that the problem isn’t that the Joint List is composed of Arabs, but that it “rejects the establishment of Israel as a Jewish State” and attempts to prevent action against Iran and its proxies, among other anti-Israel positions.
“I want to promise you something. I’m not going anywhere,” Netanyahu affirmed. “I will remain the leader of the Likud.”