TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party has claimed that Iran is meddling in the upcoming Israeli elections by pushing for the ouster of the current government in favor of one run by the newcomer Blue and White party.
A Likud election campaign video claimed that “the Iranian regime openly supports” Blue and White’s leader, former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz, and his number two, Yair Lapid.
The ad came days after reports emerged that Iran had hacked Gantz’s personal cellphone, although security sources said the phone contained no sensitive security information.
Lapid charged Netanyahu with “spinning” the phone hack incident as a ploy to divert the public’s attention from the corruption allegations against him and from criticism over his actions regarding Gaza. Netanyahu “lies when he breathes,” said Lapid.
The campaign video also seemed to be a response to Blue and White candidate Moshe Ya’alon’s claims that Netanyahu himself had leaked the information regarding the hacks to Israeli media in a bid to harm the party’s ascent.
“The Iranians are not behind the hack, they aren’t the ones attacking the prime minister’s rivals. Someone has degenerated the political system and is willing to sacrifice all values for political survival,” Ya’alon said in an interview with Channel 13 news.
“I know the defense establishment, and I also know the prime minister’s world,” he added. “This did not come from the Shin Bet.”
The Likud ad campaign countered: “The Shin Bet confirmed that the PM did not know anything about the Gantz matter and senior journalists have said so as well. This is an attempt by Lapid and Gantz to distort the fact that the Iranian regime openly supports them.”
The Likud video concluded with a recording of Iran state radio saying, “Gantz has presented a real leadership alternative to Benjamin Netanyahu. Hopefully, he will succeed in this mission.”
Likud said that both Gantz and Lapid supported the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, a claim that is untrue. Both expressed opposition to the terms of the deal at the time, but said that once it had been signed there was no point getting “hysterical” about it or doing anything to rock the boat vis-a-vis Israel’s relationship with the Obama administration.