Prime Minister Netanyahu is fanning the flames of a confrontation with Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett. For now the public rift serves both sides.
Concern is growing among the settlers over Kerry’s peace initiative. I heard a person close to the Yesha Council – the settlers’ main advocacy and lobbying organization – say that at the council’s most recent general assembly, people used terms that haven’t been heard since Oslo days.
Naftali Bennett, head of the Jewish Home party (formally the National Religious party) attacked Prime Minister Netanyahu earlier this week for floating the idea that Israeli settlers would remain in a future Palestinian state, under Palestinian rule. Speaking at the INSS forum, Bennett said, “our children will not forgive the leader who gives up the land.” Other settler leaders praised Bennett for his statement.
Both parties are benefiting from the public rift so far: Bennett is scoring points with his base and positioning himself as the main figure opposing the Kerry process – Defense Minister Ya’alon was the front runner in recent weeks. Meanwhile, Netanyahu is building up his appeal in the Center and is strengthening his credibility with the Americans and Europeans as a leader who is willing to pay a political price for his commitment to the diplomatic process. It is telling that both Bibi and Bennett’s polling numbers have gone up in recent weeks; in that regard, this is the same old political theater of the previous couple of decades.
But Bennett could very well find himself outside the government soon. This morning (Wednesday), the prime minister’s proxies demanded that Bennett apologize for speaking out against Netanyahu. More so, it seems that the Prime Minister’s Office is fanning the flames rather than toning down the controversy, as he usually does.
UPDATE: Channel 2′s political reporter Amit Segal reported that Netanayhu has put an ultimatum before Bennett: apologize for your comments by Sunday 10 am, or get fired. UPDATE II: Bennett apologized. The Jewish Home’s leader wants the confrontation, but not at the price of leaving the government.
It’s worth recalling that Netanyahu never wanted Bennett in his government and was forced to bring him into the coalition because of a political pact the settlers made with Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party. Beyond the personal grudge...Read More