Bennett jabs Netanyahu for being ‘scared’ of terrorists

Bennett jabs Netanyahu for being ‘scared’ of terrorists

New Right party leader criticizes prime minister over his handling of security issues, calls on him to immediately fulfill his threats of home demolitions for attackers

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations gathering in Jerusalem, February 18, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Education Minister Naftali Bennett at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations gathering in Jerusalem, February 18, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

New Right party leader Naftali Bennett accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of being too scared to take a firm hand against Palestinian terrorists Monday, hours after two soldiers were seriously injured in a car-ramming attack.

After the prime minister called for the homes of the Palestinian attackers to be quickly demolished, Bennett accused Netanyahu, who also fills the defense minister role, of worrying too much about public opinion and giving into extortion from terror groups.

“Stop being afraid of terrorists,” said Bennett, who is education minister, in a statement. “Instead of putting out notifications to the media, start carrying out demolitions. The terrorists are not afraid of pushes from websites, they are afraid of pushes from a D9 [bulldozer] on their families’ homes.”

He said the home of Arafat Irfayia, 29, the Palestinian suspect in the rape and murder of Israeli teen Ori Ansbacher, was still standing, despite Netanyahu’s promise it would be demolished quickly.

The home of Irfaiya, who reportedly confessed to the crime but has yet to be charged, was mapped for demolition three days after she was killed on February 7. Israel uses home demolitions as a deterrent and a punitive measure against those who carry out attacks.

“I gave an instruction to speed up the demolition of these homes within the parameters of the legal system,” Netanyahu said earlier Monday, following the car-ramming attack. “We are determined to continue our struggle against murderers and against terror as such.”

Monday’s car-ramming occurred near the village of N’ima at approximately 3:30 a.m. The army said that “from an initial investigation it appears to have been an attack.” Soldiers opened fire on the three occupants of the vehicle, killing two and wounding the third.

An IDF officer was seriously injured and a border guard was lightly wounded in the attack, the military said.

Israeli troops arrive at the scene after a car-ramming attack in which two Israeli servicemen were injured in the central West Bank on March 4, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

Bennett’s broadside came with little more than a month to go before Knesset elections on April 9. Bennett’s hawkish New Right party is competing with Netanyahu’s Likud for votes among right-wing Israelis

Bennett’s taunt that Netanyahu was afraid of terrorists stemmed from a report Monday in the Yedioth Ahronoth daily in which security officers raised concerns of an escalation of violence should a pilot program to block illegal cellphones used by Palestinian security prisoners move ahead.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan responded to Bennett’s remarks by tweeting at him, “It is true we are in an election campaign but there is no need to make politics out of this important project. The IDF position is absurd, and I have no doubt that the prime minister will not adopt it but will back continuation of the project.”

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, speaks during a press conference for the foreign media, in Bnei Brak, February 3, 2019. (Flash90)

Despite his attacks, Bennett told Channel 12 television’s morning news program that he would still back Netanyahu as prime minister after elections so long as charges had not been filed in three corruption cases by then.

On Thursday Attorney General Avichai Mandelblitt announced that he would seek indictments on bribery and breach of trust against Netanyahu.

Charges cannot be formally filed until after a hearing, which is not expected to take place until several months after the elections.

Among the accusations are that Netanyahu oversaw a political hit job against Bennett in the media: during the 2013 election campaign the Walla news site owned by Bezeq owner Shaul Elovitch, at the direct urging of the prime minister repeatedly published stories aimed at discrediting Bennett and casting him as inconsistent on his positions.

Bennett said the prime minister should still be presumed innocent until proven otherwise.

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