Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was not scared of going to elections during a special Knesset hearing on Monday, asserting that "If there are elections, we will contend and win, but we are not there yet."
In the wake of threats from Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beytenu party to quit the government in the wake of the Haredi draft law amendment, the prime minister argued that "Precisely because of the big challenges we face, I call on my friends, and primarily Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and the heads of the Haredi factions ... to act responsibly. The country needs a stable, firm, wide government that functions for a long time. It needs our government."
He urged to "make one last supreme effort to preserve the longevity of this government in its current form."
"You know why? A government that relies on a one-vote majority simply cannot function. We've been there; we've seen what it's like. That is why we expended the government, and indeed the current government is functioning well," the prime minister explained.
Later in his speech, which was interrupted several times, Netanyahu launched an attack on the opposition. "You stood here, determined and ruled in a responsible and authorized voice that I destroyed the ties with the US, that I am exaggerating the Iranian threat, that I am leading to diplomatic isolation. Today, it's known the policy we're leading is bringing unprecedented diplomatic prosperity for Israel," he claimed.
"You said I was destroying the economy, but our policy helped the Israeli economy become one of the leading and most successful economies in the world. Unemployment is at an all-time low, growth is high, and inequality is steadily declining. Our strong economy allows us to take care of security, welfare, health, infrastructure, culture—all fields," he boasted.
"Tourism in Israel is at an all-time record. The people of Israel go abroad and return saying 'Things are good here.' They love the country. Furthermore, they're proud of the country. This is in complete contradiction to what they hear from you and your friends in the media," Netanyahu further accused.
The Zionist Union party collected 40 signatures of MKs to hold the discussion, requiring the prime minister to be present throughout. The head of Zionist Union's faction in the Knesset, MK Yoel Hasson, said ahead of the discussion that "Precisely at this time, when Netanyahu is acting based on his own personal interests and no the good of the public, he will have to come and provide answers to members of Knesset."
The first to take the podium was Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni, who accused the prime minister of wanting to go to elections to hide his alleged corruption.
"You want elections before the public knows the truth about your personal corruption, before people who know you and worked with you and know what you did say the whole truth," Livni charged. "To hide the truth, you will once again pull out from your pocket the hatred and the persecution that you normally use to incite one against his brother. You feed off the hate you sow."
"Mr. Prime Minister, your term will end at some point. I don't know when that will happen, but I hope it happens fast," she continued.
Yesh Atid leader MK Yair Lapid wondered about Netanyahu's claims of a conspiracy against him.
"Your main claim is that there is collaboration against you by elements who convened in some dark room and decided together to overthrow you. These are the elements you told us 'cannot be trusted': The TV, the radio, the newspapers, the police commissioner you appointed yourself, the attorney general and state attorney you appointed yourself, the state comptroller you appointed yourself. I only have one question, why?" Lapid said.
"A prime minister in Israel that has an ounce of responsibility left can't write on Facebook that the police and the prosecution are pressuring state's witnesses to lie. He can't say that law enforcement authorities can't be trusted," he stressed.
"The thing that stands out the most in all of the affairs is your ending and obsessive focus on one topic only—yourself and your fate, what's good for you. For the good of the country, it's your time to bow out," Lapid concluded.
In his time at the podium, Zionist Union MK Mickey Rosenthal said that "the prime minister is suspected of bribery, surrounded himself with a group of criminals."
This prompted Culture Minister Miri Regev (Likud) to rush to Netanyahu's defense. "Who are you? Are you the court? You shakshuka!" she yelled at the former investigative journalist, referring to a documentary movie he created in 2008 titled "The Shakshuka System," which deals with the connection between private capital and government.
Carrying on, Rosenthal spoke directly to Netanyahu, saying "The one organizing a puputsch here is you, and not the prosecution. You declared to the Israeli public that the Israel Police has waged a coup d'etat here."
Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg said mockingly that "the death throes of a government that has no public or moral mandate are always the most pitiable and most desparate. This is what we're seeing now."
"It's not Bibi, it's the Bibism," she continued, referring to the prime minister by his nickname. "Next we're going to hear from the coalition's benches that the prime minister has no problem running the country from prison. Mr. Prime Minister, you are serving under police recommendations (to indict for) bribery ... this isn't an election crisis, this is an investigations crisis."
Zandberg compared the government's conduct to The Godfather, The Shawshank Redemption and The Sopranos. "The prime minister with the fake smile is trying to convince all of us that he's going to come out strong in the elections. Sir, no one is infallible," she added.
Her comments made Deputy Minister Yaron Mazuz (Likud) angry, and he was removed from the plenum after yelling "Shame on you, go home!"