Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) has sharply attacked his fellow party member MK Dudi Amsalem, for suggesting that the United Arab List (Ra'am), headed by MK Mansour Abbas, might be a future coalition partner, once a "Zionist" majority of 61 MKs has been assured.
"I was astounded to hear the words spoken by Dudi Amsalem," said Netanyahu. "His words reflect his personal opinion alone, and this is not the first time something like this has happened [with him]."
Netanyahu added that, "Ra'am is an anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist party which supports terrorism and represents the Muslim Brotherhood whose aspiration is to destroy Israel. The Likud party under my leadership will never agree to admit Ra'am into any form of coalition with us.
"In 2019," Netanyahu added, "when right-wing parties had 60 seats between them, after Liberman deserted to the Left, I declined the proposals put forward by Mansour Abbas, who was offering to support a government headed by myself, which is why we headed to elections. Unlike Lapid, Bennett, Sa'ar, Gantz, and Liberman - who are right now sitting in a government with supporters of terrorism and have sold out the country to them in return for their support - the Likud under my leadership has never done and will never do such a thing."
Netanyahu then defined the choice facing voters in the upcoming elections: "Either a strong national government under my leadership, or an anti-Zionist government that includes Mansour Abbas and Ra'am, Ahmad Tibi and the Joint List - a government that is totally dependent on them."
Amsalem's comments were made on Keshet 12, when he said, "An anti-Zionist party cannot be part of the coalition, as long as that coalition does not have 61 MKs [without the anti-Zionists]. If Mansour Abbas wants to join after we already have 61 seats, he's welcome. But we cannot be dependent on him. Jews cannot be dependent on an anti-Zionist party."
Amsalem added, "We've been saying this the whole time. An Israeli government must have a Zionist majority, but once we get that, I don't have any problem [with allowing others in]. We never had trouble cooperating with the Arab parties on non-defense issues. But when we rely on their support on issues of nationalist importance, we lose our Jewish identity. When I was coalition head, for example, I worked together with Ahmad Tibi on laws providing dental treatment for children."
Following the interview, Amsalem's parliamentary office issued a statement clarifying that, "We intend to establish a nationalist government which will advance Jewish and Zionist values ... We will establish a government with [at least] 61 members from the nationalist camp."
The statement added that, "The Likud party is not a racist party and will not harm Arab citizens who are loyal to the State of Israel. Anyone who wishes to advance civil issues related to the Arab sector will find with us a receptive ear and a readiness to cooperate. Anyone who wants to advance Palestinian national aspirations and support terrorism will never be allowed to join us in a coalition."