The speech came in the wake of an earlier announcement by The Israel Resilience Party and Yesh Atid Party that they were joining forces ahead of April elections—a dramatic move that shook up the country's political system and created the first credible alternative to Netanyahu's decade-long rule.
“Whoever votes for Lapid and Gantz votes for the left ... They talk about unity but in reality, they are planning to introduce left-wing policies and left-wing plans," said Netanyahu. “In 1992, we got Yitzhak Rabin and the Oslo disaster, in 1999, Ehud Barak and the intifada, with exploding buses and more than 1,000 dead."
"It's important that we continue to lead the country our way, on a path of success, security, prosperity. But tonight I want to tell you honestly, it's not at all a sure thing," Netanyahu said.
The prime minister went on to list a series of his accomplishments, including building a wall along the Egyptian border to halt the flow of African migrants (which he said Gantz opposed), lowering unemployment, and forging new diplomatic alliances, including in the Arab world.
He also said he had helped persuade the Trump administration to recognize contested Jerusalem as Israel's capital and scuttle the international nuclear deal with Iran, which Netanyahu said both Gantz and Lapid approved. “They supported the dangerous nuclear agreement with Iran, which would have allowed it to obtain an arsenal of nuclear weapons in order to destroy us … But I didn’t accept it and worked against the deal.”
"They say the country is in a bad condition," he said. "It's never been in a better condition."
Netanyahu also recalled being interviewed by Yair Lapid, during his time as a news presenter, where Lapid allegedly admitted his lack of basic knowledge in economic matters. “He failed as an economy minister … and what about Gantz’s economic record? He went bankrupt after his one and only attempt to make it in the private market,” the prime minister said.
"Do you know that I saved the Israeli economy from collapse in 2003 and again in 2009 against the backdrop of global financial crises?" Netanyahu said. "Do you know that I have transformed the Israeli economy into one of the strongest and most advanced economies in the world? … We see progress, development and rising wages.”
Netanyahu then claimed Lapid and Gantz would conspire with small Arab parties to prevent him from forming a parliamentary majority.
"Tonight the decision is as clear as it ever was: a new left-wing government, weak, led by Lapid and Gantz, with a blocking majority of Arab parties, or a strong right wing government presided over by me," he said.
Polls released on Israeli TV stations showed that together, Gantz and Lapid could surpass Netanyahu's ruling Likud to become Israel's largest faction after the April 9 vote.
Reuters contributed to this report