by Andrew Friedman/TPS
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu launched a blistering attack Wednesday, telling supporters that the media and left-wing Israelis “are engaged in an obsessive witch hunt against me and my family in order to execute a coup.”
Speaking at a Likud-sponsored rally to bolster support for the scandal-plagued premier, Netanyahu added that the “‘fake news’ media told us that if we didn’t withdraw from part of the motherland, Israel would be isolated. What did that old guy with a new beard say? (a reference to former prime minister Ehud Barak, who also served as defense minister for Netanyahu). He said the ‘diplomatic tsunami’ is coming. What Tsunami? What isolation? What nonsense. Israel is flourishing in an unprecedented way.”
Ehud Barak tweeted in response to Netanyahu’s insinuations against him: “The suspect from Balfour (the prime minister’s residence) continues to whine. Likudniks are proud and honest citizens. They are no puppets on a string. There is no witch hunt, there is corruption. There is no leadership, there is panic.”
“Over the past few days you have showered us with support and with love, to a degree that I can’t remember,” Netanyahu said. “One person told me wisely that ‘they aren’t only looking to bring you down. They want to bring us down, all of us, the Likud and the entire nationalist camp… They know they can’t win at the ballot box, so they are trying to bypass democracy and to bring us down without elections.’
“And it’s no coincidence: They know it is no coincidence that we keep winning elections, because we have led Israel to the best situation the country has ever known,” Netanyahu said.
The event, held at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds, drew approximately 2,000 supporters, including many Likud MKs and all the party’s government ministers. The rally followed Netanyahu’s instructions last week to his political allies to defend him in the media, as well as threats by Likud Whip David Bitan, who is considered Netanyahu’s guard dog, to take stiff revenge on party members who don’t fall in line to support the prime minister. Over the past several days, party activists and MKs have dedicated time to drumming up support for the rally and pressing party members to come.
Not all Likud members were impressed by the rally, however. The absence of prominent retired Likud personalities such as Moshe Arens, Uzi Landau, and Limor Livnat seemed to undermine Netanyahu’s and Bitan’s message that the prime minister enjoys strong support inside the party.