By Ben Sales
When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims that his rivals are perpetrating the “greatest electoral fraud in the history of the country,” he’s not actually talking about voter fraud or negating a peaceful transfer of power, his Likud party said.
In a series of tweets in English Thursday, Likud sought to dispel the idea that Netanyahu was casting doubt on the actual results of the recent Israeli election or opposing a peaceful transfer of power.
The tweets came after Netanyahu said in a speech that the incoming government set to replace him is the result of historic fraud and “endangers the State of Israel in a way we haven’t seen for many years.” In the United States and Israel, the speech drew comparisons to then-President Donald Trump’s rhetoric ahead of the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol.
The Twitter postings seemed designed to rebut that comparison.
“When PM Netanyahu speaks about ‘election fraud’ he isn’t referring to the vote counting process in Israel in which he has complete confidence,” Likud wrote. “There is also no question about the peaceful transition of power. There always has been a peaceful transfer of power in Israel and there always will be.”
Rather, Likud said, Netanyahu’s claims of “fraud” refer to the incoming prime minister, Naftali Bennett, forming a coalition with an Arab-Israeli party and agreeing to support a centrist, Yair Lapid, as prime minister in two years. Before the election, Bennett had promised on live TV that he would do neither of those things.
“Right after the election, Bennett promptly violated each of these promises,” Likud tweeted.
But Bennett is hardly the first Israeli politician to break a promise about forming a coalition — in recent years to Netanyahu’s benefit. Last year, centrist Benny Gantz formed a coalition with Netanyahu after promising no to in three consecutive election campaigns. Other politicians who campaigned against Netanyahu in past years also ended up joining his coalitions.
If Bennett’s government — a narrow coalition spanning the Israeli right and left — wins in a vote of confidence on Sunday as expected, Netanyahu will be out of power for the first time in 12 years.
Earlier this week, Likud had tweeted in English that Bennett and Lapid “are turning Israel into a dark dictatorship with personal laws aimed at Prime Minister Netanyahu akin to the dictates of North Korea or Iran.”