Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu felt at ease Wednesday on the way to yet another election rally. In the run-up to Tuesday’s election, he has been making an effort to attend at least one of these rallies every day—sometimes more.
On this trip, to Or Akiva, Netanyahu was joined by Israel Hayom. “I feel the love from the public. People are really telling me—‘Stay, keep protecting us,’ ” he told the Israeli daily.
During the ride, the prime minister learned that the chairman of the Central Elections Committee, Justice Hanan Meltzer, wanted to subpoena Likud spokesman Jonathan Urich for submitting a false affidavit. Urich had stated that Netanyahu’s speech on Tuesday evening about extending Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley wasn’t a political event. Netanyahu, who was criticized for simply appearing in public this week, including his revelation of another secret Iranian nuclear site, said in response: “It reminds me of the Soviet Union.”
In a special interview that will be published in full over the weekend, the prime minister discussed, among other topics, the ongoing skirmishes in Gaza. This week, as he was addressing a crowd during an election rally in Ashdod, rockets were fired at southern Israel from Gaza. On the question of a broad military campaign in Gaza, Netanyahu said, “It’s no longer a matter of if, but when.”
On his declaration of intent to annex the Jordan Valley—and the cool response from the Americans—Netanyahu asserted that “what I said was done with the knowledge of the U.S. administration. Their response to the announcement, whereby their position on the matter hasn’t changed, shows that even if it’s not exactly a green light it is more of an orange light, and regardless isn’t a red light.
“It’s a fact that the declaration about applying sovereignty over a large area isn’t arousing opposition among the Americans. Case in point: They only issued a lukewarm statement that their view on the status of the territories hasn’t changed. Therefore, this entire matter of the Jordan Valley raises the question of who will lead the diplomatic steps after the election—me or [Blue and White Party leader] Benny Gantz, who won’t be able to withstand the pressures.”
Netanyahu also intimated that Israel and the United States could possibly clash over certain diplomatic issues, specifically the Trump administration’s looming Mideast peace plan. The prime minister, however, believes that the Americans—despite the ouster of John Bolton as national security advisor—won’t soften their stance towards Iran or the ease economic sanctions, and noted that in recent days the United States has in fact intensified sanctions on the Islamic republic.
On Wednesday morning before heading out to election rallies, Netanyahu attended a Knesset hearing about the so-called “camera law,” where he was confronted by Joint Arab List leader Ayman Odeh, who shoved a cell phone in the prime minister’s face as if to film him.
“That was chutzpah,” said Netanyahu. “He [Odeh] thinks he’ll be a minister in the next government. The incident reflects his sense of confidence. Odeh is in an alliance with [Blue and White leaders] Gantz and [Yair] Lapid, and an indirect alliance with [Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor] Lieberman.”
As for the latter, Netanyahu said: “Lieberman will topple me. Whoever doesn’t want me as prime minister should vote for him.”
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.