Gutnick meets with Netanyahu, 1998
Gutnick meets with Netanyahu, 1998AMOS BEN GERSHOM

A prominent donor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s first bid for the premiership is calling on Netanyahu to give up his efforts to win a sixth term as head of the Israeli government and instead run for the presidency.

Australian Jewish businessman and philanthropist Joseph Gutnick, a key financier of Netanyahu’s 1996 campaign told Arutz Sheva Sunday that he is disturbed by the possibility of Yamina chief Naftali Bennett forming a government with Yair Lapid, adding that the Israeli Right needs to unite around a candidate other than Netanyahu in order to form a stable government.

“As the [Lubavitcher] Rebbe’s Special Emissary for the Integrity of the Land of Israel, I believe that it is possible to form a narrow right-wing government if all of the leaders of the right-wing parties think about the future of the Land of Israel rather than abuot themselves.”

“I don’t have anything against Naftali Bennett personally. He has a great many talents, but he must not abandon the Holy Land because of his desire to become Prime Minister. If Bennett goes with the Left and comes under external pressure from Biden, it could lead to another Disengagement,” said Gutnick, referencing the 2005 Disengagement Plan from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria.

Bennett said that his government will only deal with financial matters and won’t involve itself in final status issues, religion-and-state matters, or the Arab-Israeli conflict. Don’t you trust him?

“I’m not sure that that’s how it would be. Politicians’ promises aren’t worth anything. Bennett also promised that he’d only go with the Right.”

Would you also be opposed to a unity government of Bennett and Lapid if the haredim also join?

“That would, of course, be a desecration of God’s name. We could have a narrow right-wing government.”

So maybe Netanyahu is no longer ‘good for the Jews’, to borrow from the 1996 campaign you financed?

“The responsibility is on Netanyahu to solve this problem, and if he won’t he will cause a catastrophe for the Right. If a right-wing government led by Netanyahu cannot be formed, then the Likud should have internal elections, and Netanyahu should run for president.”

“The responsibility is on Bibi to solve this problem rather than lead to the formation of a left-wing government because of his ego.”

“Bibi needs to run for the presidency and let someone else lead the Likud. There is a chance for a strong Right. A left-wing government would hurt the integrity of the Land and the holiness of the Land of Israel.”