72 hours before the voting booths open, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the other party leaders on Channel 2's "Meet the Press" in the last debate before the elections. Netanyahu responded to his critics, some of whom will become his coalition partners if he forms the next government, and tried to explain the drop in support for Likud-Beytenu in the polls ahead of Tuesday's elections.
Netanyahu kept his big news to the end of his remarks. Despite the budget deficit, which was double the Ministry of Finance's forecasts, Netanyahu promised not to raise taxes. "I have no intention of raising taxes. I will do everything I can not to raise taxes. This is a very responsible commitment. I don’t know if the world's markets will crash, which would be a different situation. As I see things today, I don’t intend to raise taxes."
Earlier, Netanyahu reiterated most of his campaign messages of the past few weeks and months. He called on voters not to vote for small parties and to avoid fragmentation. "There are many parties, each of which is pulling to a different place, and it's impossible to run the country this way. The challenges are great, and to do things, you need a big ruling party," he said.
Asked about forming a coalition after the elections, Netanyahu opted to talk about Israel's foreign enemies. "The first coalition that I am looking at is the coalition of our enemies. Ahmadinejad, Nasrallah, and Mashaal are our enemies who want to know whether the ruling party has shrunk or strengthened."
Netanyahu was then asked about US President Barack Obama's cold shoulder. Obama was quoted last week as saying that Netanyahu was working against Israel's interests. Many have interpreted the remarks as Obama's revenge for Netanyahu's support of Mitt Romney in the US elections. "I received Romney here just as I received Obama. We did not intervene in the US elections. Israel's relations with the US are based on very deep interests. We saw this in Operation Pillar of Cloud. I greatly appreciate Obama's support for us. We succeeded in harnessing other countries in the matter of Iran. There are differences of opinion with the US, but the prime minister must know how to stand up to it."
Three days before Netanyahu will probably be tasked with forming a government for the third time, efforts to create a coalition are looking extremely difficult. During the interviews by "Meet the Press" with parties leaders, Labor Party chairwoman MK Shelly Yachimovich said that she would not join a Netanyahu government under any circumstances. "I won't join a government he heads even if it is an emergency government," she said, and expressed the hope that Hatenuah chairwoman Tzipi Livni would team up with her after the elections to propose an alternative government.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on January 20, 2013
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