Likud Candle-lighting Blazes Way to Election

Coincidence of eight-day festival and opening of his reelection campaign is opportune for Netanyahu.

Ofer Vaknin

Likud activists who attended a Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony Tuesday led by Interior Minister Gilad Erdan felt as if they’d traveled back in time: Just three months earlier, a different interior minister, Gideon Sa’ar, stood at the same podium and announced that he was retiring from public life.

“I’ve got a dramatic message,” Erdan began his speech with a smile. “I’m not taking a break.”

He then launched into an impassioned attack on the rotation scheme set up by Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni, as well as Avigdor Lieberman’s and Moshe Kahlon’s refusal to declare Benjamin Netanyahu as their candidate for prime minister. “Every day there are new surprises ... Those who are looking for some kind of joint ideology among the happy couple of Herzog and Livni, I’ll tell you a secret: All they’ve got is one slogan – ‘Anyone but Bibi,’” declared Erdan.

The speech was quite the flex of muscles for Erdan, one of the highest-ranking Likud ministers whose position improved with Sa’ar’s retirement.

Netanyahu attended the ceremony with his son, Yair. Sixteen security guards surrounded him as he took the stage. “Netanyahu is giving honor to Gilad,” one of the Likud activists said, adding “you can’t forget that this was also a free election campaign event for Netanyahu.”

The coincidence that launched the election season just before Hanukkah will grant Netanyahu many such events over the next week.

The prime minister urged party activists to take to the streets. “The election is clearly between the right and the left. Between the Likud, led by me, and the Labor Party led by ah, it’s not important,” joked Netanyahu, adding, “That’s the choice: the one to lead Israel. The one to safeguard the economy, to protect our borders and security. Who will overcome the problems we face? We will, together. We did it. Who will protect Jerusalem? I ask because these are the real questions that we need to ask right now.

“Even in this generation they are rising up to destroy us. You see the waves of hatred throughout the world, Canada and Australia and Pakistan, and here too, every day. We are fighting it, the few against the many, and we can defeat them.”