Netanyahu Says Livni Would Imperil Israel as Prime Minister

In first public response, Netanyahu says report on taxpayer-funded spending in PM's homes is a smoke screen intended to let Livni sneak back into the prime minister's office.

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

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that Zionist Union co-leader Tzipi Livni would be dangerous to Israel as prime minister, his first public comments since the state comptroller released a report on alleged malfeasance at the prime minister’s residences.

Livni’s Hatnuah party is in an electoral alliance with Isaac Herzog’s Labor Party, under which the two would rotate the premiership. On Wednesday, following threats on her life, Livni received a bodyguard, as ordered by Knesset security.

Netanyahu called the report by State Comptroller Joseph Shapira a “smoke screen intended to let Livni sneak into the Prime Minister’s Office .... The reason they’re trying to hide Livni and distract the public with other things is a good one,” Netanyahu said at a campaign stop in Ashkelon in the south. “Tzipi Livni is a danger to Israel.”

He said Zionist Union was using a “smoke screen not only to hide Livni but to say she won’t negotiate with Hamas. She went to [Palestinian President] Mahmoud Abbas against my explicit instructions and against a cabinet decision a few days before he signed a unity agreement with Hamas.”

According to Netanyahu, Herzog “also said he would run to Abbas .... They both applauded the disengagement” — Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005.

Labor's Isaac Herzog and Hatnuah's Tzipi Livni tour the Gaza border, Dec. 11, 2014.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

According to Netanyahu, if Herzog and Livni are allowed to form a government after the March 17 election and rotate the premiership, they will foster the “establishment of a second Hamastan — in the West Bank. That’s what they’re trying to hide from the public.” Hamas has run the Gaza Strip since violently ousting Abbas’ Fatah party in 2007.

Later Wednesday, Livni shot back.

“Destroying Israel’s relations with the United States is a danger to Israel, the social gaps are a danger to Israel, poverty is a danger to Israel, and tunnels under the houses of Gaza-border residents are a danger. All this has happened during the nine years Bibi has been in power,” she said.

“The man who gave in to Hamas in a military campaign and is losing to Abbas in the diplomatic arena is the last one to preach to anyone about security.”

Referring to the comptroller’s report, Livni said “Bibi blames everyone for his scandals and failures except himself. The only one hiding is Bibi – he’s hiding behind [former Prime Minister’s Residence manager] Meni Naftali, behind his wife and behind campaign spin.”

According to Livni, Netanyahu is also hiding “from the disgrace the comptroller’s report exposed. Netanyahu is panicking and losing his wits. He must be replaced.”

As part of the campaign against Livni, Likud released a video Wednesday showing a delivery boy delivering a pizza with a cardboard cutout of Livni — to the customer’s horror.

Also Wednesday, young Likud leaders distributed ads with Livni portrayed as a missing person after she allegedly disappeared from Zionist Union campaign videos.

“Livni has disappeared a little from Zionist Union’s campaign,” said Likud member David Shain. “Maybe she’s bad for the campaign; maybe it’s her public image.”

Such moves are also seen as attempts to ensure that right-wing voters vote for Likud, not Naftali Bennett’s Habayit Haeyhudi, for fear that “if Likud isn’t big enough, Livni will hold key positions in the next government,” Shain said.

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