One of closest Netanyahu confidantes says PM surrounded by ‘yes men’

“We will not sit with Netanyahu in any constellation, because personal consideration guides him in making decisions,” Elkin said.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

The most recent surprise leading up to the fourth Israeli election in less than two years is the Likud MK Zeev Elkin’s decision to leave the Likud party for the New Hope party, a recent creation of another former senior Likud MK, Gideon Saar.

Saar’s move could have been foreseen. He was on the outs with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who did everything to torpedo his rival before the last election.

Elkin is another matter. He has until now been thought of as a Netanyahu loyalist, holding a number of ministerial posts in the past and carrying out sensitive missions for the prime minister, including negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

What caused the former Netanyahu confidante to abandon his party and turn on the prime minister?

In weekend interviews, Elkin gave some insight into this decision, expanding on his Dec. 23 announcement when he accused Netanyahu of transforming the party into “a cult of personality.”

In a Sunday interview with Kan public broadcasting, Elkin said, “It has begun to reach a critical mass that has crossed red lines. There is an atmosphere of flattery in the Likud faction. In the environment of the prime minister, there is no one left who can enter his room and tell him ‘you are wrong.'”

On Saturday night, he spoke with Channel 12’s “Meet the Press,” his first interview since his announcement.

“Netanyahu feels persecuted, he suspects everyone, the atmosphere is of the cult of personality, the conduct as in a Byzantine court – the flattery,” Elkin said.

“That is exactly what we want to change. All this atmosphere, that he feels persecuted and suspicious of everyone. You see what the Likud looks like today, the pictures from the court, the discourse of some of the Likud voters. This whole sense of personality cult is not the Likud as it should be. We need to change that,” he said.

“You can find a lot of my interviews in which I praise Benjamin Netanyahu and also in the [parting] speech I said that I really appreciate him for his contribution to the country. But this person is changing and has changed before my eyes – especially in the last year,” Elkin said.

Sounding like Blue and White party head Benny Gantz prior to the last election, Elkin said that the New Hope party would not join Netanyahu in a coalition.

“We will not sit with Netanyahu in any constellation, because personal consideration guides him in making decisions,” he said.

Elkin also said that if Saar had not formed a party he would have probably quit the Likud and “gone home.”

Elkin is the fourth Likud member to quit Likud and join with Saar’s New Hope party. The others are Michal Shir, Sharren Haskel and Yifat Shasha Bitton.

A Dec. 24 poll by Panels Politics shows New Hope at a very close second to Likud with 22 seats to Likud’s 25.