Is Peres Working to Overthrow Bibi?

Likud sources accuse Peres of abusing presidential powers, working with Left to thwart a second Netanyahu administration.

Maayana Miskin ,

President Shimon Peres
President Shimon Peres
Israel news photo: Flash 90

President Shimon Peres may be abusing his powers by plotting with the political left to turn Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s anticipated victory in the elections into post-election defeat. So say senior Likud sources quoted Sunday in Maariv.

Over the weekend Tzipi Livni, head of the Hatnua (Movement) party issued a sudden call for unity on the political left. “Let’s unite. Let’s sit together,” she urged in an interview with Channel 2’s Ulpan Shishi.

Livni had previously turned down offers from both the Labor party, under MK Shelly Yechimovich, and the Yesh Atid party under Yair Lapid to run together.

According to the Likud sources, Livni had good reason to change her mind about unity: in a meeting with Peres, the president had indicated that if the left-wing parties were to come to him as a unified bloc, he would task them, not Netanyahu, with the formation of the next government.

As president, Peres has the power to choose who will get the first chance to form a ruling coalition, although the decision is normally a formality, with the first chance going to the head of whichever party received the most votes.

Sources in Peres’ office denied the report, while Livni declined to respond.

Peres has previously faced criticism for overstepping his bounds as president, including recently after he praised Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas as supporting peace and opposing terrorism in a speech to more than 100 foreign diplomats.

Livni boasted Sunday that Netanyahu was “panicked” over her call for unity. She added, “Our current mission is to replace the extremist Netanyahu administration. I see the hope my initiative has given to people who planned not to vote, who [now] understand that there’s a real chance for change here.”

Netanyahu, for his part, sounded unconcerned in an interview with Army Radio. “It could be that Israel’s elections restarted on Saturday night,” he said. “The left wing parties will try to unite before the elections, and I do not rule out the possibility that they will do so the day after the elections.

“I wasn’t surprised,” he continued. “I think it’s something that comes back again and again – they are trying to get rid of me. They have one goal, to get rid of my administration.”