Israel’s former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to run in the upcoming round of elections for the very last time, according to sources quoted by Walla News.
“This October, I will turn 73 years old and it will be my last tenure,” said Netanyahu, who currently serves as the head of the opposition in the Knesset.
Assuming that he will get to build one more coalition, Netanyahu added that he wants to transfer the country to the premier who will inherit a “stabilized security, economic and social state.”
Netanyahu's office denied the report.
In any case, the former Israeli premier kicked off his election campaign on Monday immediately after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced their decision to dissolve the parliament.
“After a determined struggle of the opposition in the Knesset and great suffering of the Israeli public, it is clear to everyone that the worst government in the history of the country has come to an end,” Netanyahu said.
“My friends and I will form a broad national government headed by the Likud. A government that will take care of you, all the citizens of Israel, without exception. A government that lowers taxes, that lowers prices, will lead Israel to tremendous achievements including expanding the circle of peace as we have already done.”
Walla News reported that, unlike in previous election campaigns which Netanyahu considered declaring his last, this time around he is seriously considering making an official announcement. Such a statement could be a major part of his campaign strategy, the Israeli outlet said.
The latest polls indicate that a right-wing bloc headed by Netanyahu is nearing the 61 seats needed to form a coalition. However, these polls reflect voting according to the current political landscape, whereas some parties are expected to join forces and undergo major changes. It is also likely that new parties might emerge.
Meanwhile, the opposition is still engaged in attempts to replace the Bennett-Lapid government without going to elections and dissolving the Knesset. The chances for that scenario are considered low. Yet on Wednesday, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked – Bennett's long-time political partner – told Ynet news that she is willing to sit in an alternate government led by Netanyahu in the current Knesset.
At the same time, Netanyahu’s political rivals are trying hard to prevent him from taking the helm again through legislation dubbed the Defendant's Law – a law that would prevent a government in any future Knesset from being formed by a lawmaker under indictment, including Netanyahu.
If it does pass, it would not apply to the current Knesset, meaning Netanyahu would still be able to form an alternative government if he gathers 61 mandates prior to the Knesset dissolution and before going to new elections.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced that he will vote against such a bill, which is widely seen as personally targeting Netanyahu.
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.