Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party on Thursday issued a clarification of the premier’s claims of “election fraud” in Israel that made international headlines and drew comparisons to former US president Donald Trump.
In an English tweet thread retweeted by the premier, the party for the first time said that Netanyahu is committed to a “peaceful transition of power.”
However, his office has refused to state whether the prime minister will be attending the traditional handover ceremony of the premiership on Monday, and a transitional briefing with incoming premier Naftali Bennett has not yet been scheduled, with the government swear-in less than three days away.
Bennett is set to become prime minister after he reached a coalition deal with opposition leader Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid party and a wide array of parties aligned against Netanyahu, ranging from the dovish Meretz to the pro-annexation New Hope and the Islamist party Ra’am. Under the agreement, Bennett will serve as prime minister for two years before handing the office to Lapid for the remainder of the term.
On Sunday, Netanyahu told a Likud faction meeting, “We are witnesses to the greatest election fraud in the history of the country and in my opinion, the history of democracies.”
Those comments and others were picked up by CNN, which published a segment on Wednesday featuring side-by-side footage of Netanyahu and Trump using nearly identical rhetoric to dismiss the validity of election results, to disparage the media, to make claims regarding the existence of a “deep state” and to promise to fight the new government formed to replace them.
Likud’s Thursday statement said: “When Prime Minister Netanyahu speaks about ‘election fraud,’ he isn’t referring to the vote-counting process in Israel, in which he has complete confidence.”
Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu is on the verge of losing power, and he’s not going quietly… loudly denying the legitimacy of his own defeat, as he takes a page out of Donald Trump’s playbook. #RollTheTape pic.twitter.com/DAtE3lFeeM
— Brianna Keilar (@brikeilarcnn) June 9, 2021
The Likud statement sought to distance Netanyahu from violence such as that exhibited during the January 6 storming of the US capitol.
“There is also no question about the peaceful transition of power,” it said. “There always has been a peaceful transfer of power in Israel and there always will be.”
However, Likud stood by Netanyahu’s characterization of “election fraud” to describe the formation of the unity government replacing him, saying it accurately depicted Bennett’s breaking of pre-election promises not to form a government with Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and the Islamist Ra’am party.
“Bennett hijacked votes from the right and shifted them to the left in direct contradiction to his pledges,” Likud said. “If this isn’t fraud we don’t know what is.”
Last year, Netanyahu helped form a government that violated the pre-election promises made by Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz, who had vowed not to sit with Likud chairman.
Likud falsely claimed that “Bennett’s actions are akin to US electors unilaterally switching the voters’ choice for president against the will of the electorate.”
The American and Israel election systems are very different. Voters do not cast ballots for a prime minister, but for a party, with the Knesset then voting confidence in a prime minister. Parties are in no way obligated to vote for one prime minister over another.
Netanyahu’s party has not let up in its attacks on the Yamina chairman and has called on the public to protest against the prospective unity government.
In an interview with the right-wing Channel 20 network earlier this week, Netanyahu called Bennett a serial liar.
“The deep state is deep within this government,” Netanyahu said of the nascent coalition set to replace him, using a term for a supposed conspiracy of bureaucrats working against the elected leadership, popularized by Trump during his time in office.
Netanyahu repeatedly accused Bennett of lying to the public, calling him at one point a “habitual liar.” And he claimed that the incoming government was “more dangerous” than Israel’s 2005 pullout from Gaza, which he said resulted in Hamas rocket attacks, and the Oslo peace accords that gave the Palestinians limited self-rule in the West Bank.