Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed on Wednesday morning his main political rivals the Blue and White party for failing to make any concessions and said if Israel was to hold a third election in 12 months, he would emerge victorious.
President Reuven Rivlin handed the mandate to establish a government to the Knesset two weeks ago, after Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz failed to form a coalition.
Speaking shortly before traveling to Portugal to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Netanyahu said the Blue and White party refused to make "even the slightest of concessions despite our generous offers."
"Of course, if forming a unity government isn't possible, we will go to elections and I will win."
Netanyahu also responded to statements made earlier by Likud MK Miki Zohar - who claimed Likud will not conduct any further negotiations with Blue and White on forming a unity government - saying Zohar's claims stem from frustration over the political impasse.
"I think that [Zohar] was expressing a deep sense of frustration that many in Likud and the public share after we've presented many different offers," said Netanyahu. "We have also suggested all kinds of ways to ensure that this unity government will last and [Blue and White] simply refuse and this conflicts with the national interests because of one person's private interest, [Blue and White MK] Yair Lapid."
Netanyahu also said that Yisrael Beytenu Chairman Avigdor Liberman can still join Likud in forming a government.
"Liberman always could and still can form a government with us. It's his decision."
Meanwhile, Netanyahu is expected with Pompeo in Lisbon sometime this week. It will be the first meeting between the two since U.S. softened its stance on Israeli settlements, stating they were not a violation of international law.
Netanyahu is expected to promote two main issues during the visit: the Mutual Defense Pact between Israel and the U.S. as well as the annexation of the Jordan Valley in the West Bank.
"On Sunday, I spoke with President Trump. The conversation mainly centered on Iran," said Netanyahu. "The continuation of this conversation, with Secretary of State Pompeo, will focus primarily on Iran and on two other issues: The defensive alliance with the US, which I would like to advance, and future American recognition of applying Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley," he said.
"These are very important issues; we are dealing with them all the time. There are also other issues which I will not detail here.”
Netanyahu was scheduled to meet with Pompeo in London on Tuesday at the 70th anniversary of the NATO alliance summit. But, the meeting was canceled after British authorities informed the Prime Minister's Office that they would be unable to provide the needed security for the visit on such short notice.
The prime minister has also given his opinion on the ongoing demonstration in Iran against the government and Iran's continued efforts to develop nuclear abilities.
"We're seeing the Iranian empire totter," said Netanyahu. "We see demonstrations in Tehran, demonstrations in Baghdad, demonstrations in Beirut. It's important to increase this pressure against Iranian aggression.
"We also see that Iran wants to march forward with nuclear bombs development and ballistic missile development, including precision-guided munition. This has to be countered and the way to counter it is more pressure."
Meanwhile, Blue and White leader MK Benny Gantz responded Wednesday to Netanyahu's claims, saying the prime minister is the one acting out of personal interest.
"Unfortunately, Netanyahu puts himself before the interests of the country in the current political reality," said the former IDF chief. "I hope we won't go to another round of elections," he said.
"Despite all the accusations that we here, we make the greatest efforts to reach a unity government, there is no opportunity that I take to find a solution that will lead us to this. I think that Netanyahu is wrong in putting his personal struggles before the formation of a government."
First published: 13:46 , 12.04.19