1. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approaching podium at news conference
2. SOUNDBITE (Hebrew) Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister:
"Tonight, the decision is as clear as it ever was. A new left wing government, weak, presided by Lapid and Gantz, with a blocking majority of Arab parties or a strong right-wing government led by me. They are talking about us, they are saying (they are) a right-wing blocking majority. They are trusting the Arab parties that not only don't recognise the state of Israel, they are working on eliminating the state of Israel. It means a right-wing blocking majority is forbidden, but a blocking majority with Arab parties that are working to eliminate the state of Israel is legitimate. It's absurd."
3. Cutaway of journalists and camera operators
4. SOUNDBITE (Hebrew) Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister:
"That's why tonight, I have one message. Only a big Likud (party) will stop a left-wing government, and only a big Likud will promise the continuation of the prosperity, boom and the security. So the message is, vote Likud. Thank you very much."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to his main political rivals on Thursday by branding them "leftists" who planned to make concessions to the Palestinians and novices and who will destroy the country.
Retired military chief Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid party announced they were joining forces ahead of April's election, a dramatic move that shook up the nation's political system and created the first credible alternative to Netanyahu's decade-long grip on power.
Netanyahu claimed that Lapid and Gantz would conspire with small Arab parties to prevent him from forming a parliamentary majority.
Netanyahu also used the news conference to boast about several of his achievements such as his role in persuading the Trump administration to scuttle the international nuclear deal with Iran and recognise the contested city of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Netanyahu is pursuing a fourth consecutive term, and opinion polls have forecast another Likud victory in the April 9 election.
But Gantz, a popular political newcomer, has emerged as a potent challenger since announcing his candidacy late last month.
Both he and Lapid hold similar views on a host of issues popular with centrist Israeli voters, ranging from the economy to the Palestinian issue.