The next government will have a “historic opportunity” to address multiple issues facing the country that “everyone knows” must be dealt with, Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett said on Sunday, ahead of a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scheduled for later in the week.
“There is an agreement on the central things we need to do,” Bennett said, speaking to Army Radio in his first interview since the elections. “We have a historic opportunity to deal with some issues. It is looking very good. It would be a pity to miss this opportunity.”
Bennett said his party is not allied, but has an informal agreement, with Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party on the issues both parties want to address if they were to become part of the next governing coalition. The issues, according to Bennett, include passing a universal conscription law, breaking up the “central banking monopoly” to lower bank fees and create competition, lowering port taxes to reduce consumer prices, opening up a new international airport in the south and reducing airline taxes, and caring for the weaker segments of society.
So far Netanyahu has met or spoken to all the party heads aside from Bennett, who was the target of many of the prime minister’s Likud-Beytenu party’s campaign ads. Bennett worked for two years as Netanyahu’s bureau chief, but abruptly left his position five years ago, with long-standing rumors attributing the departure to friction between Bennett and the prime minister’s wife Sara.
In the Army Radio interview, Bennett apologized for saying during the campaign that he and Sara went through “a terrorism course together,” which he explained was said in jest.
“[Sara] Netanyahu is a good woman who loves her husband, and he has the full right to consult with her, just as I consult with my wife,” Bennett said. “If someone wants to criticize Netanyahu’s policies, he is the address, not his wife.”
Bennett’s Jewish Home party won 12 Knesset seats, and Yesh Atid, led by journalist-turned-politician Lapid, garnered 19, leading to a center-right coalition possibility with the Likud-Beytenu’s 31 seats which could potentially shut out ultra-Orthodox parties — traditional coalition partners of the Likud which have strenuously objected to efforts to formally draft yeshiva students into the IDF or national service.
Yesh Atid will stick to its principles with regard to universal conscription, said MK Shai Piron, second on the party’s list. Speaking to Israel Radio on Sunday, Piron said there was “no room for compromise” on the issue and implied that Yesh Atid would sit in the opposition rather than be part of a government which would not seek to conscript all Israeli citizens.
On the same program, MK Ayelet Shaked of Jewish Home said that “the heart of the equal-share-of-the-burden issue is integrating the ultra-Orthodox into Israeli society and labor market.”