In a special interview in the run-up to Israel’s March 2 elections, Netanyahu sat down with Israel Hayom to talk about navigating the complex political Israeli reality, the seemingly never-ending election year, the security challenges the country faces, and his legal woes.

Q: [Channel 13 News analyst] Dr. Avishay Ben-Haim says that you symbolize the struggle between ‘First Israel,’ the elite, and ‘Second Israel,’ which you represent. Can you relate to this theory?

A: That really spoke to me, especially when I read it in Haaretz. [Haaretz columnist] Ravit Hecht wrote, in no uncertain terms, that [the] Blue and White [Party] represents the attempt by ‘First Israel’ to perpetuate its status, that ‘Mapai’s well-toned daughter’ [the left-wing Mapai Party ruled Israel until the 1970s] is trying to ensure that people of certain ethnicity won’t even dream of being ministers. I cannot accept this separation of ‘First Israel’ and ‘Second Israel.’ The social periphery must be abolished, and if my rivals want to take me to task over that—let them.

But I think there is another reason. If I pushed a leftist agenda, all would be forgiven and everyone would embrace me regardless. But as I represent an agenda that pushes national pride rather than cowering, it creates the juxtaposition of fierce opposition as well as staunch support.

Q: You represent the moderate right, and you are very ‘First Israel.’ You could easily be the left’s prime minister.

A: Perhaps I am accused of debunking the senseless theory that if we relinquish land, we’ll get peace in return. I adamantly stood against two American administrations that tried to push us back to the 1967 lines. Maybe I’m guilty of preventing that nightmare from coming true. They [Blue and White] haven’t gotten over it yet, but they now represent themselves as pseudo-right-wing.

Q: You have worked with Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, former Defense Minisiter Moshe Ya’alon, Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid in the past. Why didn’t they join a national unity government?

A: Ask them. I asked Gantz, but he refused. I think we are within reach of victory. Gantz isn’t—he’s missing 11 seats, and he has no way of closing that gap without the support of the Joint Arab List. We are within reach of 61 seats [the majority of the 120-seat Knesset required to form a government]. There’s a great resurgence of the Likud.

Netanyahu is the first incumbent Israeli prime minister to be indicted. He faces corruption charges in three separate cases, and his trial is set to begin on March 17.

Touching on his legal troubles, the prime minister asserted his innocence and said he is not concerned by the legal proceedings ahead.

“Truth and justice are on my side, and the truth will come out,” he said. “I’m not concerned about a trial because it will be at least a year or two until it actually begins. My abilities—what I get done in one hour—others can’t do in a year, or at all. My pace is quite different than that of MK Gantz.”

The full interview with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will appear in Israel Hayom on Friday

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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