Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that a newly formed Israeli coalition that is on the verge of ousting him was the result of the “greatest electoral fraud” in the history of democracy.
Hours after Netanyahu’s remarks, Naftali Bennett, a nationalist who was to replace him as prime minister, urged Israel’s longest-serving leaders not to leave “scorched earth” and accept that “the people can form a government – even if they don’t.”
Netanyahu made his blanket accusation at a time when Israel’s state security chief publicly warned of the prospect of political violence.
“We are witnessing the biggest electoral fraud in the history of the country, in my opinion the history of any democracy,” Netanyahu told MPs from his right-wing Likud party.
He focused his allegations on a broken campaign promise by Bennett, who had pledged not to partner with left, centrist and Arab parties.
On Wednesday, Bennett and opposition leader Yair Lapid announced that after an unsuccessful election on March 23, the fourth in two years, they had formed a government coalition with factions from across the political spectrum.
Under a rotation agreement, Bennett will serve first as Prime Minister, followed by Lapid.
A date for a vote in parliament on the adoption of the new government has not been set.
In a televised address, Bennett urged Yariv Levin, parliamentary speaker and Netanyahu loyalist, not to waste time trying to convince members of the new coalition to defecate and said he should hold the vote on Wednesday. There was no immediate comment from Levin.
“Let go. Let the country move forward,” said Bennett, addressing Netanyahu, who has been in office since 2009. “Mr. Netanyahu, do not leave a scorched earth behind. We all, the whole nation, want to remind you of the good you have done in your ministry.”
Netanyahu’s tenure has been tarnished by a corruption trial in which he has denied any wrongdoing, but he has been praised domestically and internationally for Israel’s speedy adoption of COVID-19 vaccinations.
“Fraud and Abandonment”
The future new government limits the political tussle since the election. People angry at the proposed alliance have protested outside the homes of opposition politicians whose security has been strengthened following threats on social media.
“We, my friends and I at Likud, will vehemently oppose the establishment of this dangerous government of fraud and surrender,” said Netanyahu. “And when, God forbid, it’s established we’ll be dismantling it very quickly.”
In a rare public warning, the chief of the internal security agency Shin Bet said Saturday that increasingly extreme online discourse could lead to violence.
The 71-year-old Netanyahu condemned violence and sedition and reiterated his designation of the Lapid-Bennett coalition as a left-wing alliance that would endanger Israel.
He said the multifaceted partnership is unable to confront Washington over Iran‘s nuclear program or confront the Hamas militant group in the Gaza Strip, which fought with Israel for eleven days last month before a fragile ceasefire went into effect.
Bennett, who leads the far-right Yamina party and advocates the annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank, said Netanyahu’s description of the coalition as “extreme left” was “another lie”.
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