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March 1, 2020 8:02 pm
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Rivals Netanyahu and Gantz Make Their Final Pitches to Voters Before Monday Elections

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

The results of the exit polls are shown on a screen at Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party headquarters, following Israel’s parliamentary election, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sept. 17, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Amir Cohen.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief rival, Blue and White party Chairman Benny Gantz, made their last pitches to voters on Saturday, with Israel set to go to its third general elections in a year on Monday.

Interviewed by Israeli news website N12, Netanyahu attacked Gantz, saying, “Benny Gantz does not deserve to be prime minister, he is weak, he has the most dictatorial party in the Knesset. I go to the citizens of Israel with a huge democratic majority. They hide his collaboration with Tibi from the public.”

Netanyahu was referring to controversial Israeli-Arab Knesset member Ahmad Tibi, to whom Netanyahu has repeatedly tried to link Gantz and his party.

The prime minister also attacked the media, saying he is constantly criticized even though “I make the most cautious decisions and do not go to unnecessary wars.”

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“If we have no choice, we’ll hit Hamas in Gaza,” he said, “I’m very, very careful before going to war because it’s a last resort.”

On the issue of possible annexation of the West Bank, which has caused Netanyahu trouble with far-right parties in his potential coalition and the settler movement, the prime minister denied a claim made by rival Avigdor Lieberman that he had told Jordan’s King Abdullah that he would not undertake an annexation plan.

“It’s a perfect lie,” Netanyahu said. “Lieberman can say whatever he wants — he’s the one who delivered cash suitcases to Hamas.”

“Since I am in charge of security, I decide on everything and take responsibility for it,” he added.

He also pledged that he would not attempt to pass a law giving him immunity from prosecution on corruption charges and said, “I actually have faith in the Israeli courts, but the state’s witnesses against me have been blackmailed by threats.”

Netanyahu was indicted shortly before Israel’s second round of elections, with his trial set to begin on March 17.

In his own N12 interview, Gantz addressed the negative tone the campaign has taken in recent days, saying, “I understand that people are sick of this slime. … I intend to lead them on a new path.”

“People understand that they cannot take the risk that Netanyahu will remain in power,” he asserted.

“I really hope the election result will be one that will allow me to form a unity government,” he emphasized. “This is the preferred alternative because this is what this society needs. Society is divided and needs healing.”

Gantz also said that he would not allow Netanyahu to serve as prime minister in any unity government due to the indictments against him and addressed Netanyahu’s claim that he would rely on the majority-Arab Joint List party to form a government, saying, “We will not establish a government with the Joint List or with its support — we have no agreement with anyone.”

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