Minister of Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Yuval Steinitz, one of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's closest political allies, accused elements in the United States on Tuesday of joining the Israeli media and Palestinian Authority in "mobilizing" against Likud and "delegitimizing" it on behalf of "the other side" in the election campaign.
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Steinitz, No. 13 on the Likud list, made the charge in an online exchange with Haaretz readers, one of many that Haaretz has sponsored with the candidates. Below are some of the many questions Steinitz responded to.
Q. There's a feeling on the street of a lack of enthusiasm to vote for Netanyahu. Are you concerned that many Likud voters will stay home on Election Day?
Steinitz: I am definitely worried. I see the campaign against us, the media's mobilization against us, the mobilization by the Palestinian Authority's and also by elements in the United States against us. I see something that looks like support for the other side. We definitely are not at ease, but we're fighters I think that most polls show that despite this delegitimization, the majority of the public prefers Netanyahu and his leadership abilities by a wide margin over Bougie [Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog] and the others.
Q. Couldn't the Ministry of Strategic and Intelligence Affairs be folded into the Defense Ministry instead of wasting so much money just so Likud can have another minister at the cabinet table?
Steinitz: It wouldn't be wise to move this ministry's functions into the Defense Ministry. In most of the world's democratic countries the decision has been made not to unite the military branch with all the secret services and intelligence forces under a single cabinet minister. It's a healthier way for a democracy to function. There is a need for a minister with broader authorities than the minister [of strategic and intelligence affairs] has now. In the future, this ministry will probably be combined with the National Security Agency and be headed by a cabinet minister.
Q. Netanyahu declares over and over that he won't agree to a national unity government, but I find it hard to believe this is a hard and fast commitment. Does he genuinely rule out a government with Tzipi [Livni] and Bougie under his leadership?
Steinitz: To my mind, this is an unlikely scenario, illogical and undesirable. I have nothing against Bougie. He was okay as minister of social affairs. He's not one for major battles but he functioned reasonably well. [Sitting in a government] with Livni, though, is virtually impossible. Not just because of her radical leftist views, which by now may be to the left of Meretz. ... She's gone through four political parties: from Likud to Kadima, to Hatnuah to Zionist Union. At this rate, in another couple of years she'll be on the Arab list [Joint List].