Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's fraying alliances took another blow on Saturday after a heated exchange with far-right party leader Bezalel Smotrich, who said it was possibly time to "replace" him in light of his response to a week of escalating violence with Gaza and in Jerusalem.
"After countless terror incidents and lynchings by the Arab enemy in recent days, and after a rocket barrage from Gaza on southern communities, did Netanyahu seriously call this evening to 'calm the spirits on all sides?'" Smotrich tweeted.
Netanyahu's Likud party responded to Smotrich by saying “After the prime minister and Likud donated three seats to Religious Zionism and reserved them another seat (on Likud’s slate), and since Smotrich is not a party to security assessments, it would be best for him to show humility and gratitude and not lash out at the prime minister.”
Netanyahu orchestrated the alliance between Itamar Ben-Gvir's Kahanist party Otzma Yehudit and Bezalel Smotrich's National Union Party, which ended up taking six seats in the March 2021 election.
An interjection from Likud MK Miki Zohar prompted a further response from Smotrich: "If everyone here who claims to have 'donated' me three seats would have done so, I would have had 15 seats today."
He added that Netanyahu "did me no personal favors and I emphasized throughout the whole journey that I am not personally committed to him but to the values of the right and my religious Zionism."
Itamar Ben-Gvir, leader of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, also condemned the latest events with Gaza, saying that Netanyahu "must order the IDF to launch a round of assassinations and respond with launching rockets back at the terrorists, and not at empty sand dunes."
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After consistent refusals to sit in a government Mansour Abbas' United Arab List, Smotrich said last week that he prefers a broad coalition government that includes both Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid rather than a right-wing government that is reliant on the support of the United Arab List.
“Even a fifth election is much preferable to such suicide,” he wrote. “In my estimation, such a hybrid creature," he said, referring to a Bennett-Lapid government, "also won’t be established and if it does, then it would last a few months and crash and the right would return big time. That’s preferable to destroying the right wing and Zionism.”