More than 30 thousand right wing Israelis gathered in Rabin Square Sunday night, for a rally that outnumbered last week’s left-wing rally by about 2 to 1.
This may not represent electoral realities on the ground, as the latest polls show Labor’s Itzhak Herzog and Tzipi Livni ahead of Likud’s Netanyahu by at least 3 Knesset seats—but the turnout had to warn many hearts in Likud, Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home, and Eli Yishai’s Tachad
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who spoke first, was received warmly, including the familiar Israeli cheer, “Here comes the next prime minister” (it rhymes in Hebrew).
Netanyahu said that the Jewish Home party would be a full partner in his next government, regardless of how many seats it party would win on Tuesday. He also extended his invitation to Moshe Kahlon—a former Likud minister who left to start his own center-right party—to serve as his Minister of the Treasury.
“We keep the unity of Jerusalem, we’re building in Jerusalem, ” said Netanyahu, whose two consecutive governments had placed freezes on new construction in the settlements and in East Jerusalem.
“This is not the way of the left, ” Netanyahi continued, “this is not the way of Tzipi and Boujie (Herzog’s nickname). A few months ago we announced a further construction in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. Tzipi opposed.”
Yes, but it was Tzipi that Netanyahu had turned to first two years ago, to join his new coalition government, placing in her hands the authority to negotiate a peace agreement with the Palestinians which inevitably necessitated a construction freeze.
Netanyahu was followed by Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett, who pulled a great stunt, after, earlier, Central Election Commission chairman, Supreme Court Justice Salim Jubran, in response to a petition by left-wing Meretz and by Labor, decreed that Sunday night’s rally would not include singers.
“The left is trying to silence us, to prevent this rally, ” Bennett told the crowd. “The Election Commission tied our hands and said we won’t sing here. And I tell you, they will not silence us, we will not stop singing, ” and at that point Bennett grabbed a guitar and sang “Jerusalem of Gold” with the crowd.
Other speakers included Yachad leader Eli Yishai, who split from the Sephardi party Shas; Israel Katz, Israel’s popular transportation minister; Benny Begin, the late prime minister’s son who was brought back from retirement by Netanyhu, who planted him in the Likud’s 11th spot (it’s the party leader’s prerogative); and Ayelet Shaked, Jewish Home’s no. 2 who will likely become a government minister (she wants the judiciary) should the right win.
The Zionist camp (Labor/Livni) responded to Sunday’s rally with a statement saying that “if we needed another proof for the terror show run by Bibi, [Baruch] Marzel (a right wing settler who takes delight in provoking the left and the media) and Bennett, supported by extremists, we got it at the rally. Bibi is the prime minister of the extreme right and only the Zionist camp could block their takeover of the state and of government. It is clear to everyone that every vote that does not go to the Zionist camp brings Bibi, Marzel and Bennett into the [next] government.”