Ze’ev Elkin, the third-ranking member in Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope party, has ruled out his party sitting in a government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, as Likud ramps up its efforts to lure the party or individual defectors into a right-wing coalition.
“I’ve heard some commentaries and talk about defectors but it won’t happen,” said the ex-Netanyahu loyalist in an interview with Kan Bet public radio on Wednesday morning.
“We believe that Netanyahu can no longer lead the State of Israel. He’s not right-wing. Netanyahu serves only Netanyahu, it’s all about his personal interests,” said Elkin, calling on Netanyahu to step down in favor of someone else from Likud.
With almost 90 percent of the votes counted, the Knesset remains in deadlock.
In his interview, Elkin addressed the possibility that New Hope would join a government without Netanyahu. “There is a potential of forming a government of change and we’ll do so. No ego considerations will get in the way,” he said.
The comments echoed Gideon Sa'ar's earlier rejection of sitting with the prime minister, vowing act toward establishing a “government of change.”
However, Elkin also ruled out joining a government involving the Joint List, including a coalition that does not include the Arab-majority slate but that is dependent on its votes. “Unequivocally, we won’t join such a government,” he said.
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Elkin also added that if Netanyahu succeeded in forming a government, New Hope would serve the public from the opposition benches. “We can obtain everything, anything we want, from Netanyahu, but our answer is unequivocal. We don’t want it; we’ll serve the public while in the opposition. Anyone dreaming about defectors or about splitting us can forget about it.”
When asked how his party would vote if a bill that would prevent Netanyahu from running in the next election came up, Elkin said the party would discuss this and take a joint decision.
Elkin’s words came against the backdrop of statements from Likud officials on Tuesday, claiming that Netanyahu was trying to recruit defectors from New Hope in order to form a government.
In a speech in the immediate aftermath of the first exit polls, Netanyahu said that he wished to form a stable government in order to avoid a fifth election. “I extend my hand to all Knesset members. I don’t rule out anyone.”
On Tuesday night, in addition to the schadenfreude felt by Likud activists over Sa’ar’s disappointing six-seat showing, there were assessments that Sa’ar would retire, with his party members returning to Likud. “I think he’ll return the keys, whereupon we’ll take three or four party members back,” said Shlomi Vaknin, a member of Likud’s Central Committee.
MK David Bitan said in an interview to Channel 12 News that he thought it was possible to bring Ze’ev Elkin and Gideon Sa’ar back to Likud, adding that there was no way of forming a government not headed by Netanyahu, while MK Nir Barkat also estimated that Sa’ar would step down after his failure, with his party members ultimately joining a Netanyahu-led coalition.