'Knives Are Being Drawn': Former Likud Ministers Bash Netanyahu in Adelson-backed Daily

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Benjamin Netanyahu during the first opposition meeting since his dethroning, last month.
Benjamin Netanyahu during the first opposition meeting since his dethroning, last month.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Former Likud ministers slammed former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's continued grip over his party on Thursday, telling the press that efforts to “restore trust” in his leadership appeared “destined for failure.”

Speaking anonymously with what is considered to be a pro-Netanyahu daily, Israel Hayom, the two former ministers described a politician struggling to rebuild frayed relationships and with very little to offer supporters.

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The daily was founded by Netanyahu ally Sheldon Adelson, an American casino mogul and major donor to conservative causes. He died this year after a years-long battle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. His widow, Miriam Adelson, was named publisher of the daily in 2018.

Israel Hayom ran the former ministers' comments under the headline "'Netanyahu has nothing to give': Knives are being drawn in Likud."

“For years, Netanyahu completely neglected personal relationships between himself and party members. He did not cultivate relationships, did not show interest in personal lives. On the contrary, he always acted suspiciously and with a watchful eye toward the actions and statements of his senior officials,” one of the former ministers told the paper.

The ministers described a leader who took a transactional approach, who “never tried to talk, have a conversation, or show he understood how [members] felt” and who left many of his supporters feeling slighted.

“There's not one person in the Likud who doesn't feel Netanyahu didn't [take] them into consideration, didn't see them, and felt frustrated as a result,” the second former minister said.

The minister went on to describe how Netanyahu had driven away allies-turned-rivals such as New Hope chairman Gideon Sa’ar, Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman and current Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

“Unlike in the past, Netanyahu has nothing to give, neither jobs nor budgets,” and he is now “suddenly trying to go back to basic human relations, the lack of which got him into the trouble he's dealing with today,” the former minister told Israel Hayom.

“Suddenly he's trying to be nice,” but “no one believes him,” the former minister continued. “To change the situation, the head of the opposition will need to work very hard to restore trust and personal relationships. It's not for certain he even remembers how to do that anymore, and that's why, according to my assessment, it is destined for failure.”

While there have been few public signs of displeasure with Netanyahu’s continued stewardship of Likud, there have been increasing indications that there are those high up in the ranks of the party who have grown increasingly frustrated with his repeated failures to produce a stable coalition over the course of multiple elections.

After being ousted from the Prime Minister’s Office last month, Netanyahu tried to arrange for a primary to be held as fast as possible in order to preempt the emergence of any serious challengers to his leadership, but was rebuffed by party bigwigs.

Among those who argued for a delayed primary was lawmaker Nir Barkat, who spoke out against the idea at a mass gathering of party backers called by the former Jerusalem mayor in Tel Aviv. Barkat had previously criticized Netanyahu for declining to allow another, less divisive figure, to lead the right-wing bloc to electoral victory.

Likud number two Yuli Edelstein has also been reported to be considering a primary run against Netanyahu. 

According to public broadcaster Kan, the former Health Minister told associates that Netanyahu had “made all the possible mistakes; everywhere I go, they say he needs to be replaced.”

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