Some 6,000 people from Israel’s political right attended a rally in Jerusalem on Wednesday where opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu used the occasion of a coalition member’s defection to rally his supporters and call for a new government.
“To the members of Knesset who were elected by right-wing votes – if you have a conscience and a heart, do return home,” Netanyahu said.
The surprising announcement made by coalition chairwoman, Idit Silman – that she would no longer vote with the coalition – has sent shockwaves across the Israeli political spectrum and threw the government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett onto shaky ground.
“Everyone knows one thing – it is no secret, but the truth is simple: the days of the government are numbered,” Netanyahu said. “It is nearing the end of its path. Very soon, in a shared effort and with God’s help, we will put Israel back on the track of success and prosperity.”
The exuberant crowd chanted slogans such as “Bennett go home” and “Bibi, king of Israel.” The purpose of the gathering was to protest the latest wave of deadly terror that has hit the country, as well as a halt on new construction projects in Judea and Samaria.
“We came to say one thing to this government: Go home!” Netanyahu told the enthusiastic crowd. “Go home, you’re damaging Israel’s Jewish identity... go home, because you’re weak, you’re weak against Iran, and you’re weak against terrorism.”
Despite high spirits on the right in light of the latest political shakeup, new snap polls conducted by local media outlets on Wednesday showed that if new elections were held now, they would likely result in another political stalemate, as was the case in the previous four election cycles.
The polls showed that Netanyahu’s Likud party would win either 38 seats (Channel 13) in parliament or 35 seats (Kan Broadcaster), if elections were to be held soon.
The second-largest party, according to the polls, would be Yesh Atid, headed by current Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, with 17 seats (Channel 13) or 19 seats (Kan).
Israel’s Channel 13 poll further indicated that along with three additional right-wing parties, the political bloc led by Netanyahu could earn 60 seats in the Knesset.
The results of both polls mean that Netanyahu would not be able to form a coalition without the support of a party that is currently part of Bennett’s government.
Bennett's coalition of eight political parties, ranging from Islamists to right-wing nationalists to far-left liberals, now holds 60 seats.
Netanyahu appealed to conservatives in the current government to join him and form together a right-wing government. He called for “unity” among the ranks, and urged lawmakers to “come home to the national bloc and leave old grudges behind.”
“Our door is open to everyone who was elected by right-wing votes and wants to put the State of Israel back on the winning track. Our unity comes to serve all the citizens of Israel,” said the former prime minister.
Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.