Former ambassador Mark Regev has described the government’s approach to anti-reform protesters as “polarising” and “counter-productive”.
Mr Regev, a former advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said the premier’s comparison between protestors and the PLO and Iran had “played into the hands of his political opponents”.
Speaking at an online event organised by the Anglo-Israel Association (AIA), Mr Regev, the former Israeli Ambassador to the UK, acknowledged that some of Netanyahu’s coalition allies – which include far-right group Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) – made the Prime Minister look “like the left”.
He said: “A lot of people would agree [that] these are not Netanyahu’s favourite political partners. He has problems with some of these people, they are too extreme for him.
“I always thought that he felt the most comfortable when he was the Prime Minister in a coalition when he had some people to the right of him and some people to the left of him, and he could play them off against each other; he was the conductor of the orchestra so to speak.
“In this current coalition government, he’s like the left. It’s probably a difficult place for him to be.”
Mr Regev, a former senior advisor to Netanyahu, also spoke about the protests across Israel in response to judicial reform policies.
“It is clear that Israeli society is very polarised,” he said, adding: “we do need reform – but with consensus.
“The way that it’s being done in this very polarising way has been totally counter-productive. I would say to people in the Likud: even if you are right, you have to choose your battles.”
He also appeared to criticise Netanyahu’s comparison of anti-reform protestors with the PLO and Iran, noting: “[Netanyahu] had to clarify that afterwards because he played into the hands of his political opponents.”
Mr Regev, a former senior advisor to Netanyahu, also responded to criticism of the premier. He said: “You can’t be in public life, not in Britain and not in Israel, without being criticised. And when you have been at the top for so many years as Netanyahu has been, of course you are going to be at the brunt of criticism. It comes with the job.”
He made the comments at an online event last Thursday, watched virtually by more than 180 people. The event, moderated by journalist Sandy Rashty, saw Mr Regev in discussion with correspondent and author Anshel Pfeffer.
Mr Regev, who now sits as chair of Reichman University’s Abba Eban Institute for Diplomacy and Foreign Relations, went onto welcome the prospect of an alliance between Saudi Arabia and Israel, saying it would give a “kosher stamp” to other Muslim-majority countries looking to normalise open relations with the Jewish State.
He said: “If Saudi Arabia makes peace with Israel, it’s a kosher stamp for many people in the Arab world and in the Islamic world, that Israel is kosher. That’s a major change.”
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