Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett stated Wednesday that he would not join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government at any cost and that he is not ruling out taking his party into the opposition.
Bennett, speaking at a conference in Jerusalem, attacked Netanyahu and Hatnua chairwoman Tzipi Livni’s coalition agreement as well, saying that the new government should focus on the country’s burning issues rather than buying political time with peace talks.
“If the new government’s mission is to take on the problems we face as a country, we’re in,” Bennett said. “But if the goal is to just buy more time we won’t [join the government], and it’s not a disaster,” he said.
“We are at a crossroad in history and the ball is in the prime minister’s hands. … Are we going to strengthen the Land of Israel and our capital Jerusalem, or will we put the negotiations in the hands of those who have already offered to divide Jerusalem and give up [the major West Bank settlement of] Ariel?” he asked, alluding to Livni.
Hatnua representatives were quick to respond to Bennett’s attack. “Livni never gave up on Ariel nor did she bring up Jerusalem in the negotiations, but she carefully guarded Israel’s national interests,” a party official said. “In politics, truth is sometimes also an option,” the official added. Livni led peace talks with the Palestinian Authority as foreign minister in the Ehud Olmert-led government until 2008.
According to a report on Channel 1, Bennett met secretly with Netanyahu on Tuesday, though both sides refused to reveal the details of their discussion.
“There used to be a natural partnership between the Likud and religious Zionism,” he said. “During the last campaign we were brutally attacked, something in the partnership was unraveled, but it’s not too late to fix this.”
Bennett also criticized a proposed military service draft plan outlined by Prof. Eugene Kandel, which Likud has been advancing in some coalition contacts, and called to adopt an alternative outline. According to the Kandel outline, the IDF will recruit over 60% of Haredi yeshiva students under the age of 24 within five years and the state will provide incentives for the newly recruited students and for their learning institutions.