Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett threatened on Tuesday to pull out of the ruling coalition if the government agrees a peace deal with the Palestinians that goes against the values of the Jewish Home party, which he heads.
“I told the prime minister: Bring me a document and then we will evaluate it. If it doesn’t fit our values, then we won’t be in the government. If it does fit, we will stay and we will support the prime minister,” Bennett said, speaking at a ceremony organized by B’Sheva, a popular religious magazine distributed for free on Fridays. He was apparently referring to a much-anticipated “framework” agreement for further talks that is being finalized by US Secretary of State John Kerry.
The Jewish Home won’t pull out of the coalition just “to prove something,” but there is no purpose in “clinging” to its position, Bennett said. The current government is a good one, he added, but plagued by “difficulties and full of paradoxes.”
Jewish Home, a religious Zionist party, is in principle opposed to giving up areas of the West Bank and of uprooting any of the Jewish settlements there, both of which are key demands of the Palestinians in the negotiations.
The Jewish Home commands 12 MKs, and if it does bolt the coalition, the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could be in danger of collapsing.
However, Netanyahu could likely bring in the 15 MKs of Labor, who support the peace negotiations, to replace the Jewish Home and therefore retain a ruling majority in the Knesset.
Kerry is expected to present in the near future the so-called “framework agreement,” a set of guidelines, some details of which have been leaked to the press, to be agreed upon by both the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams ahead of final-status peace talks.
Bennett’s statements come after last week’s high-profile spat between his camp and that of Netanyahu — set off by a Times of Israel report — over the prospect of Jewish West Bank settlers living in the future under Palestinian rule. At one point Netanyahu threatened to fire Bennett.