Blue and White (Kahol Lavan) alliance number three and former Defence Minister Moshe Ya'alon has compared Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Hamas, saying it too was elected democratically.
In an interview today with Israel's Channel 12, Ya'alon slammed Netanyahu's long-term dominance of the Likud party – which he has led almost continuously since 1993 – comparing his reign to Hamas' control over its own members.
He told the TV channel: "In Likud they choose [their list] through democratic elections. Hamas is also elected in democratic elections, but then [Knesset Members (MKs)] are managed using a balance of terror."
"How did such a balance of fear come about, that resembles a 'dictocracy' more than a democracy," Ya'alon added.
Ya'alon stressed that his criticism was directed not at the Likud party generally but rather at Netanyahu himself, claiming that a number of Likud MKs agree with him privately.
The Likud party this afternoon hit back at Ya'alon's comments, claiming "he has long [since] lost his marbles". A Likud statement read: "To compare the Likud and Hamas? The left-wing party of [Blue and White co-leader Yair] Lapid, [Benny] Gantz and Bogie [Ya'alon] continues to incite against more than a million Likud voters, who chose Benjamin Netanyahu to lead the country. Pathetic!"
Ya'alon also today reiterated Blue and White's long-standing claim that it will not consider entering into government with Likud so long as Netanyahu remains at its helm.
"It's not a personal issue, it's a question of Bibism," Ya'alon explained, adding that "it has become very dangerous to the future of the country in terms of democracy. It [has] turned into worship of one individual."
Ya'alon's comments will be seen as a thinly-veiled reference to Netanyahu's ongoing efforts to guarantee his immunity from prosecution in three corruption cases, which could see him face up to ten years in prison. In this bid Netanyahu has sought to curtail the power of Israel's Supreme Court, a move which former Israeli judges have claimed is reminiscent of Nazism's rise to power in Germany during the 1930s. "This is the threat and we have to deal with it," Ya'alon stressed.
Blue and White won the same number of seats as Likud in April's general election, a performance hailed as a great success for the nascent party. However, given his position as incumbent prime minister, Netanyahu was given the first shot at forming a ruling coalition.
When Netanyahu last month failed in this task, Blue and White had hoped that party leader Benny Gantz would be tasked with forming a government, as dictated by precedent. However, in a bid to hold on to power Netanyahu pushed to see the Knesset dissolved, thus triggering fresh elections which are now slated for 17 September.
Blue and White – along with other centre-left parties Labor and Meretz – voted against the dissolution, but were defeated by the right-wing bloc and the predominantly Arab-Israeli parties Hadash-Ta'al and Ra'am-Balad, which seized upon the prospect of an election do-over in a bid to improve their dire April performance.
Despite rumours that Kahol Lavan's component parts – Gantz's Israel Resilience (Hosen L'Yisrael) party and Lapid's Yesh Atid – could break apart ahead of September's election, the party heads have vowed to contest the upcoming election together. Should this arrangement survive the coming four months' campaigning, Blue and White is expected to remain Netanyahu's biggest rival.