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After snub, Bennett says Netanyahu ‘dangerously’ delegitimizing his government

In response to opposition leader leaving PM off list of greetings at an event a day earlier, Bennett writes on Facebook: ‘I wasn’t the only one shifting uncomfortably in my seat’

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and current Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (Combo photo credits: Netanyahu: Menahem Kahana / AFP; Bennett: Yonatan Sindel / Flash90)
Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and current Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (Combo photo credits: Netanyahu: Menahem Kahana / AFP; Bennett: Yonatan Sindel / Flash90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett hit back on Friday at opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, saying the latter was “undermining the legitimacy” of his government by failing to acknowledge his presence while speaking a day earlier at an event to mark the departure of outgoing Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman.

Netanyahu gave a long list of greetings to all the dignitaries present, but failed to acknowledge Bennett, leading to angry calls from some in the crowd, telling Netanyahu that “there’s a prime minister here.”

Hebrew media reported that Netanyahu decided to ignore Bennett in response to a supposed slight against his predecessor in Bennett’s own speech, when he said: “We are now in the age of we, not the age of me.”

An official in Bennett’s office told the Ynet news site that Bennett was referring to cooperation needed between the various security branches. However, that line was not included in the official transcript of his speech that was released to media outlets.

In a Facebook post published Friday afternoon, Bennett wrote: “The unpleasantness during such a dignified and moving event was a shame. I wasn’t the only one shifting uncomfortably in my seat.”

“I hope the opposition chairman will understand that political disagreements are a natural thing,” Bennett added. “Disagreements are a part of life. But undermining the legitimacy of a government in Israel is dangerous.”

Bennett became prime minister earlier this year, ending more than a decade of rule by Netanyahu when he managed to pull together a disparate coalition of right-wing, centrist, left-wing and Arab parties, who mostly only agreed on the need to oust Netanyahu and break a two-year political deadlock.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (L) greets outgoing Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman at an event to honor the departing security chief on October 14, 2021. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Netanyahu has continued to disparage and delegitimize Bennett and his government since returning to the opposition.

On Monday, during a stormy Knesset plenum session, Netanyahu alleged that Bennett was “not a real prime minister.”

“When I was a three-year-old, I arranged the chairs in the living room, added wings, sat down and said: ‘I’m a pilot, I’m flying a plane,’ but I wasn’t a pilot. I was sitting in a chair, pretending I’m a pilot,” Netanyahu said.

“When a three-year-old does that, it’s cute. When Bennett sits on the prime minister’s chair and says: ‘I’m a pilot, I’m flying this plane’ — but in reality, he isn’t making the decisions — he may be prime minister by title but he isn’t a real prime minister. It isn’t cute, it’s pathetic and even dangerous. It’s all pretending,” the opposition chief said.

Bennett, meanwhile, has portrayed his new government as representing a new path of cooperation and dialogue, both in Israel and in relations with the world, accusing Netanyahu of divisiveness and self-interest in his time in power.

In his Facebook post on Friday, Bennett said he is “the prime minister who is least influenced by pressure groups and lobbyists in decades.” The prime minister added: “I don’t owe anybody anything, and therefore they have no leverage over me.”

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