Benjamin Netanyahu and Bezalel Smotrich
Benjamin Netanyahu and Bezalel SmotrichHaim Toito

Religious Zionism party chairman MK Bezalel Smotrich apologized Monday evening to Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu following the release of a recording of him calling the Likud chairman "a liar, the son of a liar."

"This is a very old private conversation, a small person leaked it to a journalist. They are trying to cause hurt and conflict. I apologize to Netanyahu, I said things that should not have been said. I learned a lesson," said Smotrich in an interview with Kan News.

Smotrich's partner in the November elections MK Itamar Ben-Gvir also addressed the recording and said: "I don't hear him in private conversations talking like that, when I talked to him he explained that it was an old recording."

"Both Bezalel and I worked hard so that there would be no cooperation by anyone in Likud with Ra'am. I regret that there are elements in Likud who use the recording to campaign in the studios," he added.

In the recording, which was revealed on Sunday by Kan 11 News, Smotrich can be heard saying: "If I wanted to take votes away from Bibi, I would have to attack him ruthlessly. He's a liar, the son of a liar. He didn't want to go with the United Arab List? He so much so wanted to. I was the only one who stood in his way, I would have gained two seats. I need to set the idea that this is taboo on the right. I toe the line, I don't lie when I'm being interviewed. I say that I don't deal with things that aren't important."

Smotrich, who was deep in the deliberations and was pressured by Netanyahu to allow the formation of a government with the United Arab Party, explains what was behind his opposition to a partnership with the Arabs. "We did a lot for the Arabs, but that was done by Jews, not the Islamic Movement. I take responsibility for the Arab community, not for the United Arab List or the Joint Arab List. We are Jews, it's a huge difference. We will give funding to the authorities right away," Smotrich added.

Smotrich's criticism can be heard throughout the conversation. The former Transportation Minister refers to the concessions that Netanyahu was willing to make for the United Arab List and why he goes along with the narrative that the Likud pushes, even though he claims it is false.

"Even if he (Netanyahu) were willing to give a little less, it doesn't make a difference once he agrees to form a government with them, since in the end, he depends on them. So what difference does it make? In the beginning, he would have given them less and then he would have given them everything because otherwise they would topple him and bring on elections."