Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu declared Thursday that his Likud party will return to lead the government "in two weeks or another three and a half years."
Speaking at a Tel Aviv convention of the Federation of Local Authorities in Israel, the former prime minister said that "We will come back quickly and make repairs. It could be another two weeks or another three and a half years."
Netanyahu added that in the meantime he is prepared to accept "this strange government, which many Israelis understand has something wrong with it."
Since the establishment of the government headed by Naftali Bennett, Netanyahu has often said that the Likud party will return to power. In his last speech as prime minister, in June, he told the Knesset: "We will return soon. Try to do as little damage as possible so we can fix it as quickly as possible after we come back." At a Likud Knesset faction meeting that same month, Netanyahu told his party colleagues that "the government will fall much more quickly. With such hatred it is impossible to maintain a government for long."
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Since then, members of the former prime minister's inner circle have claimed that Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will struggle to pass the annual state budget, which will lead to the collapse of the government. The Knesset approved the budget in the first of three mandatory votes; the remaining two are scheduled for November.
Associates of Netanyahu say that Defense Minister and Kahol Lavan party chairman Benny Gantz is the governing coalition's weakest link and that the government could fall even if the budget is passed.
With the end of Netanyahu's reign as premier – at 12 successive years, the longest in Israel's history – many wondered about his political future. In September Haaretz reported that the U.S. billionaire Larry Ellison – a witness for the prosecution in one of Netanyahu's criminal trials – had recently offered him a seat on the board of directors of Oracle, the software giant that Ellison founded and still owns. Sources close to Netanyahu and Ellison said the offer likely included a six-figure (in dollars) annual salary. Netanyahu denied having received such an offer.
Likud officials discussed a scenario in which Netanyahu resigned from the Knesset but remained party chairman. Netanyahu insists he has no such intention to do so, instead claiming he will lead Likud until Bennett is replaced.