Smotrich: ‘I will not give in to the suicide of Israel’s right-wing’

Leader of the right-wing Religious Zionism party says Netanyahu should toss in the towel rather than have a government that needs Arab support.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The leader of the Religious Zionism party slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for considering the formation of a government that would need Arab votes to stay in power, saying to do so would be political suicide, Israel Hayom reported Sunday.

Following last month’s inconclusive elections, Netanyahu was given the task of forming a new government, but is struggling to hammer together a coalition of at least 61 seats in the 120-seat Knesset. He has so far only been able to garner 52 seats with the 30 of his Likud Party and the others from smaller religious and right-wing parties including the six from Smotrich’s Religious Zionism.

Netanyahu has been reportedly courting the four seats of the United Arab List (known by its Hebrew acronym Ra’am) along with the seven seats of Naftali Bennett’s right-wing Yemina party.

“If this is the only strategy of Netanyahu and the Likud, then it’s a waste of time and for them to return the mandate to the president right now,” said Smotrich.

“If the Likud fails in the task of forming a national government, it will be because it is wasting the precious days of its mandate in dangerous and hopeless directions,” Smotrich said in comments Friday.

“I will not give my hand to the suicide of the Right and the State of Israel by the formation of a reckless government, that with its short-sightedness will depend on anti-Zionist terrorists who will make us all their hostages.”

Following the election, Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas gave a conciliatory speech calling for a fresh page in Arab-Israeli cooperation “based on mutual respect and equality.”

“The State of Israel is changing its face and refusing to open its eyes. We don’t need to agree on everything – but we must give our children the opportunity to know each other,” Abbas said at the time. “My attitude is what’s possible, and less what’s not.”

Ra’am officials provided Likud members with a list of issues important to them including budgets for education, infrastructure and the fight against crime, exclusive control over the distribution of budgets, and construction in Arab cities, Israel Hayom reported.

Ra’am is avoiding political “hot potatoes” like the Nation-State Law and other legislation Arabs claim unfairly discriminates against them. According to Likud members, this fact could allow Smotrich to agree to Ra’am as a partner for the purpose of forming a government as doing so wouldn’t violate any of the party’s principles.

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Netanyahu has less than two weeks remaining to form a government, after which President Reuven Rivlin might give the task to another party leader to try and avoid going back to the polls.