Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu held an online meeting with independents from the Shulmanim organization, urging them to support him in the upcoming elections and not to form a party or join another party.
Channel 12 reported Netanyahu as explaining to them that he never has 61 votes to advance reforms because "there's always another [Moshe] Kahlon". Netanyahu attacked the former finance minister, saying that he did not allow reforms that would have promoted a free market.
For Netanyahu, his bloc includes the Likud, the Haredi parties, and the religious Zionists led by MK Bezalel Smotrich.
"If you really want to solve your problems, you have to give me your votes - but as a group, not individually and not in a deal of some kind," Netanyahu said. The prime minister said that "my Knesset members, Smotrich, and the haredi parties all vote the way I want."
When asked who did not support his agendas, the PM answered that Kachlon opposed him, claiming that the former finance minister prevented economic reforms that would have increased free-market competition and benefited the self-employed.
Netanyahu stressed: "There are new Kahlons now. This has become a game of clerks and advisors and legal dealings. I cannot go any farther on this matter while I am being recorded."
Representatives of the organization wondered what would be different in this election, and whether or not they could rely on the Prime Minister's guarantees. The prime minister took exception to the challenge.
"Who's playing you, me?" he demanded. "Did you hear a single word I said here? I have nearly sacrificed my political career four times over in my attempts to change the country for your benefit. I have failed only because to do so requires me to have sixty-one seats in the Knesset. There is always someone missing," Netanyahu claimed, pointing the finger of blame at Kahlon and Lapid.
"Now Blue and White and Nissenkorn stand alone, and I intend to break that pattern,," Netanyahu declared, as he began a cold calculations of seats. "I have 40," he concluded, "or even 42. It's entirely possible." Netanyahu believes he will be able to reach 61 seats even without Bennett: "Even if it's 40, the Haredi parties make 56. If Smotrich is a man of the free economy and passes the electoral threshold, he will add six more votes. But four seats to Smotrich isn't enough."
Netanyahu stressed once again how dangerous it would be for his bloc for the small businesses to form their own party, "If you take those last two seats, Smotrich won't cross the threshold. The coalition will depend on Meretz and Lapid, with no difference from the last election."
He continued: "If you take your votes and form your own party that, G-d forbid, does not pass the threshold, you have thrown your votes away, but more than that - you endanger any chance of a coalition of 61." The Prime Minister sees 42 seats for Likud as a realistic possibility, especially in light of the recent Abraham Accords and the success of the mass vaccination effort.
"COVID-19 comes and goes, but vaccinations stay around. Keep in mind the recent peace agreements too," Netanyahu added, declaring that he is counting on 5 seats from the Arab sector that he believes will stop supporting the Joint List after it lost seats in the last election. "They lost seats when they opposed the Abraham Accords. I address the Arab public without shame, in Nazareth and Tirah and in Umm al-Faham, to say that we will see five more seats added due to Arab voters.
The Religious Zionist Party, led by Bezalel Smotrich, said in response: "We are not in anyone's pocket and will act as we believe will benefit the people of Israel in accordance with our values."