Likud Bracing for 'Blitz' Ahead of Comptroller Report on Netanyahu Expenses

Zionist Union intends to attack Netanyahu over the report, a Labor MK said, but will also try 'to return the discussion to the real issues' as soon as possible.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Benjamin Netanyahu meeting with Russian Jews at Bar Ilan University, February 9, 2015.
Benjamin Netanyahu meeting with Russian Jews at Bar Ilan University, February 9, 2015.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Politicians across the spectrum predicted on Monday that a media assault on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife over a state comptroller’s report on their spending would boomerang to Netanyahu’s benefit. The report is due to be published Tuesday.

Following last month’s media uproar over allegations that Sara Netanyahu had pocketed thousands of shekels worth of bottle deposits that should have gone to the state, both Likud and the rival Zionist Union conducted in-depth polls to determine the impact. What they discovered was that much of the public viewed the personal attacks on the Netanyahus as persecution, persuading his base to rally around him.

“A personal attack on Netanyahu doesn’t work to our benefit,” a Zionist Union source said Monday. “Instead of his problematic image cracking Netanyahu’s support, the right-wing bloc immediately rallies behind him and sympathy for Netanyahu only increases.”

A Likud source concurred. “Netanyahu benefits from any discussion that isn’t substantive and any focus on matters unconnected to his functioning as prime minister,” he said. “It’s easier for the premier to refute claims of hedonism or wasting money than to explain to the public that to this day, he hasn’t managed to get Israeli housing prices under control. The latest polls prove this.”

Nevertheless, one Likud MK said, the party’s campaign is preparing for a “blitz” against Netanyahu and predicted that this would constitute “one of the main potholes” on his road to reelection.

Likud MKs will be asked to defend the Netanyahus in interviews. Some objected to this assignment, saying their job is to defend Netanyahu’s performance as prime minister, not his personal conduct. Nevertheless, one MK said, “It’s clear to everyone that during a campaign, any discussion of the matter is essentially a political attack. We’re politicians, so we’ll mobilize to help.”

To prepare the groundwork, the campaign released a video last week showing the interior of the prime minister’s official residence, to show that despite the enormous outlays detailed in the comptroller’s report, the residence is far from luxurious.

Likud also intends to compare the report’s findings with another report slated for release Tuesday on spending at the President’s Residence under former President Shimon Peres. Likud will claim Peres was far more profligate.

Finally, the party will charge that the report’s release at this particular moment is nothing but campaign propaganda under the comptroller’s aegis.

“Since the comptroller said there’s no suspicion of criminal activity in the findings, it would have been better to postpone publication,” a Likud source argued.

As for Zionist Union, it does intend to attack Netanyahu over the report, a Labor MK said, but will also try “to return the discussion to the real issues” as soon as possible – “to tell the public that the report’s findings are grave, but Netanyahu failed in things that are far graver.”

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