Bennett demands defense ministry, says he can make Israel ‘win again’

Education minister says he asked Netanyahu for security portfolio because country is in a ‘deep crisis’ with a defeatist mindset in dealing with terrorism

Education Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at an education conference in Ramat Gan on November 15, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Education Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at an education conference in Ramat Gan on November 15, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Education Minister Naftali Bennett said Thursday he asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be appointed defense minister after Avigdor Liberman resigned the post, and promised he could make Israel win again.

“The greatest danger to Israel is that we’ve started to think there’s no solution to the terrorism, to the terrorists, to the rockets, that there’s nothing to be done, that it’s impossible to win,” Bennett said in a speech at an education conference in Ramat Gan.

“But there are things we can do, there is a solution. When Israel decides to win, we will win,” he added.

His speech came the day after Liberman resigned to protest a truce with the Hamas terror group that brought an end to a major flareup in violence in the Gaza Strip. By pulling his Yisrael Beytenu party out of the coalition, Liberman left the government with a narrow majority of just 61 out of 120 Knesset seats. The religious nationalist Jewish Home party then quickly declared it would topple the government if its leader Bennett is not given the defense portfolio.

Top ministers and opposition leaders have called for fresh elections.

“Yesterday I asked the prime minister to give me the position of defense minister, with one goal: that Israel start winning again…. As minister of defense, I intend to bring innovation, creativity and a fighting spirit, to challenge the conventional wisdom of the past.”

Without a “dramatic change” in Israel’s defense thinking, he added, “Israeli deterrence will continue to decline.”

“I wouldn’t be leaving the position of education minister if it wasn’t that Israel is in a deep crisis,” he explained.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announces his resignation following the ceasefire with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, during a press conference in the Israeli parliament, on November 14, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Bennett has long criticized the Netanyahu government’s reluctance to respond more forcefully to Gaza rocket attacks, and has advocated ground incursions into the Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu began consultations with heads of parties in his coalition to stabilize it on Wednesday evening.

The prime minister has not yet named Liberman’s replacement, and has not indicated if he will comply with the Jewish Home party ultimatum for Bennett’s appointment to the position.

Netanyahu and Bennett are due to meet Friday.

On Wednesday, Liberman said he was resigning over the ceasefire reached with Gaza terror groups following an unprecedentedly intense two-day rocket barrage on Israel’s south.

On Tuesday evening, the security cabinet agreed to an informal ceasefire with Hamas in a decision that several cabinet ministers later said they opposed.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) speaks with Education Minister Naftali Bennett on November 13, 2017 in the Knesset. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The decision was slammed by some opposition leaders, who called it a capitulation to terror after a deadly two-day conflagration that saw over 400 rockets and mortar shells fired at southern Israel. Netanyahu has defended the ceasefire deal that ended the worst escalation between Israel and Palestinian terror groups in Gaza since a 2014 war.

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