Flagging in opinion polls before Tuesday’s election in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to rally rightists by casting his center-left challengers as tools of a global campaign to usurp power.
Over social media and broadcast interviews, the three-term leader has accused unspecified foreign governments and tycoons of funneling “tens of millions of dollars” to opposition activists working to undermine his Likud party and boost the Zionist Union joint list led by Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni.
They, in turn, have dismissed the rhetorical fusillade as a bid by Netanyahu to shift voters’ attention from socio-economic problems to security challenges such as the Palestinian statehood drive and Iran’s nuclear diplomacy, on which the prime minister argues that he alone can resist pressure from abroad.
In an interview published Monday in the daily Maariv newspaper, Netahyahu said withdrawing from occupied areas to make way for a Palestinian state would only ensure that territory will be taken over by Islamic extremists. When asked if that means a Palestinian state will not be established if he is elected, Netanyahu said “indeed.”
It was the latest — and clearest — attempt by Netanyahu to disavow his earlier support for Palestinian independence, which he first laid out in a landmark 2009 speech.