Instead of saying there were miscounted votes or systemic fraud, the party posted on Twitter that “Bennett hijacked votes from the right and shifted them to the left in direct contradiction to his [campaign] pledges. If this isn’t fraud we don’t know what is.”
In a Twitter thread that was shared by Netanyahu, the Likud said there would be a peaceful transition of power to a new government. “There always has been a peaceful transfer of power in Israel and there will always be,” the Likud wrote. The party blamed unnamed others for what it claims are the ways Netanyahu’s words were “distorted.”
In Israel’s 120-seat Parliament, known as the Knesset, Bennett has a razor-thin majority of 61 seats.
Netanyahu and his allies have been working to pressure politicians from the right-wing Yamina and New Hope parties to vote against Bennett’s new government in a crucial confidence vote scheduled for Sunday afternoon.
In his final speech before the vote, Bennett promised unity as he faced a hail of abuse from allies of Benjamin Netanyahu.
As Bennett walked to the podium to address the Knesset plenum, members of Netanyahu’s Likud party, as well as the ultra Orthodox parties and the far right Religious Zionism party began yelling at Bennett, accusing him of lying and stealing votes from the right.
Bennett said he would work to bring the country together, even with those who disagreed with him.
“Twice in our history, we lost our Jewish home exactly because leaders of the previous generation refused to sit one with another,” Bennett said. “I am proud to sit with people with different opinions. At the decisive moment, we took responsibility.”
Bennett was repeatedly interrupted and had to pause as the Speaker of the Knesset issued warnings to politicians who kept interrupting. Multiple lawmakers from Likud and from Religious Zionism were expelled from the debate ahead of the vote.
If Bennett loses the vote, his effort to oust the man for whom he once worked will have failed, likely sending Israel to its fifth election in two-and-a-half years. But the failure would leave Netanyahu as interim Prime Minister, a title he has held throughout most of Israel’s recent political turmoil.
Bennett buttressed support for his coalition when a member of his own Yamina party, considered one of those most likely to defect and scuttle the nascent government, pledged his support on Tuesday.
On Sunday, Bennett urged Israel’s longtime leader to support an orderly transition of power and not to leave “scorched earth” behind him.
“This is not a catastrophe, this is not a disaster. It is a change of government. An ordinary and usual event in any democratic country,” Bennett said at a press conference Sunday night at the Knesset. “The system in the state of Israel is not monarchical. No one has a monopoly on power.”
Netanyahu has not yet publicly conceded defeat to his former chief of staff, fully aware of the opportunities he still has to find rifts and fissures to exploit in Bennett’s government. The coalition is set to be the most diverse in Israel’s history, including right-wing, left-wing and Arab parties.
But the alliance of eight different parties, each with its own, disparate interests, may have little common ground to hold it together other than its desire to remove Netanyahu from office.
The unity of Bennett’s government is facing its first major test on Sunday afternoon, as the Knesset debates the coalition’s priorities and policies before the swearing in vote. The debate is expected to last a few hours, during which Netanyahu and his allies will try to find pressure points to pull one party away from another. Only then will the speaker of the Knesset, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, call the confidence vote.
It will be a critical moment, one that not only decides the leader of the country, but also reveals whether Netanyahu, long considered the “magician” of Israeli politics, has one more trick to play.