The leader of the right-wing national religious Jewish Home party said settler outposts set up on private Palestinian land are illegal and should be removed.
Naftali Bennett made the statement in an interview with Channel 2’s Nissim Mishal broadcast on Thursday evening, seemingly breaking with the hard-line views of much of the party’s base.
“The outposts built on private Palestinian land are illegal and should be removed,” Bennett said. “It is the same as if a house is built on my private land in Ra’anana and should be removed.”
The declaration brings Bennett closer to the position of the Likud and other potential partners of a future coalition. However, his party later stated that no settlement outposts fit the description.
Bennett’s return to Mishal’s talk show was fraught with baggage after the last time around, when Bennett made waves by saying he would, as a soldier, refuse an IDF order to evacuate Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
“If I am ever given an order to evacuate a Jew from his home… personally, my conscience won’t allow me to do it; I’ll ask my commander to grant me an exemption, [but] I won’t call for [mass] insubordination,” Bennett said in his December 20th appearance on the show. “To kick people off of this land is a terrible thing; I’ll do whatever it takes to prevent it from happening again,” Bennett stressed.
In the new Thursday night interview, Bennett retracted the statement and declared he now understands the responsibility that goes with being a public figure.
“I want to make it quite clear that an [army] order should never be disobeyed,” he said.
A statement issued by Jewish Home after the show appeared to backtrack on the party leader’s words, reading: “Thankfully, there are no outposts that fit the description presented by the interviewer and therefore no outposts will be evacuated. Instead, we will act to make the government adopt the Levy report, which offers alternatives to demolition.”
Bennett also criticized the leader of the Yesh Atid party, Yair Lapid, for his determination to induct 100,000 ultra-Orthodox young men into the army. Bennett said such a move will only result in 100,000 ultra-Orthodox men in prison, and proposed a more limited induction instead.
The move for universal national service is a central issue in Israeli politics and Lapid has said he will not join a coalition that doesn’t implement the idea.