Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Office MK Ofir Akunis (Likud) spoke to Arutz Sheva on Wednesday, making sense of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's decision the night before to disband the government, and explaining his party's goals in the upcoming elections.
Likud's focus now is not to replace the dismissed Yesh Atid and Hatnua ministers, said Akunis, but rather "the most important now is to win in the general election campaign that was forced upon us by two partners who did one of the dirtiest tricks ever done in Israeli politics - replacing the prime minister during their tenure."
Akunis's comments refer to Yesh Atid chairperson Yair Lapid and Hatnua chairperson Tzipi Livni, who Netanyahu dismissed Tuesday night accusing them of staging a "putsch" by attacking the government from within the coalition.
According to the deputy minister, the upcoming elections set for next March 17 will be a struggle by Likud and other right-wing parties to form as wide a government as possible.
When asked about the "putsch" attempt which Livni and Lapid have denied, Akunis said the two had indeed acted to try and overthrown Netanyahu.
Referencing comments by hareidi MKs indicating Lapid's attempt to form an alternate coalition with them, he noted "they are telling us that in private conversations and in the media. They tell us that there were requests particularly from Yesh Atid, and that's the most shocking because they base their mandates on hatred of the hareidim."
"They proposed a replacement of the government," said Akunis. "There's no escape from advancing the elections. They strove all the time, from the first days of the government, against the national line of the prime minister, a line in support of building in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem."
The statement may strike some as odd given Netanyahu's covert months-long freeze on Jewish construction in those very areas, which has not come in exchange for any benefit to Israel, and coincides with a severe housing crisis.
According to Akunis, Likud does not intend to run a negative campaign against Jewish Home as it did in the last elections, a campaign which was seen as harming the Likud as well. Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett at the time accused Likud of "firing inside the APC."
"Every reasonable person needs to reach conclusions. I hope that they will also learn on the other side. The firing in the APC was mutual. It was a mistake of the two parties. There is a match between the directions of the two parties," said Akunis.
Referring to Yisrael Beytenu chairperson Avigdor Liberman and former Likud Minister Moshe Kahlon who has formed his own new party, Akunis said "I hope and expect that Kahlon and Liberman will announce their support for establishing a government headed by Netanyahu."
"Kahlon owes that to the public and particularly to the right which gave him high places in the Likud list," said the deputy minister.
Akunis said he would "continue to stand on my positions against a Palestinian state and releasing terrorists, and for a building push in Judea and Samaria. No freezes and no withdrawals and no (concession) plans. If the Likud will be strong and can found a right-wing government with rightist parties next to it, that will block all initiatives, European, American or otherwise."