Bennett says ‘childish’ opposition harming Israel, trying to damage ties with US

PM’s strident criticism of Netanyahu comes after fake report claiming Biden administration will withdraw Golan recognition sparks uproar

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on June 20, 2021 (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on June 20, 2021 (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attacked the opposition and its leader, his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu, as “childish” on Monday, accusing them of trying to harm Israel-US ties just to challenge his new government.

Bennett’s comments came after false reports claimed US President Joe Biden was planning to revoke his predecessor Donald Trump’s recognition of the Golan Heights as Israeli, and after Netanyahu slammed Bennett for allegedly giving up Israel’s right to independently attack Iranian nuclear sites.

“The opposition is trying to harm the country and ties between me and Biden. This isn’t just childish, it is irresponsible,” Bennett said at a faction meeting of his Yamina party.

“This is a conscious strategic decision as a punishment due to their frustration at being in the opposition — instead of criticizing and challenging the government, they are purposefully and systematically harming the country,” Bennett charged.

The US State Department on Friday denied that the Biden administration planned to rescind recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, after a false report sparked an uproar in Israel.

“US policy regarding the Golan has not changed, and reports to the contrary are false,” the State Department’s Near Eastern Affairs Department tweeted.

Israeli army forces seen stationed near the border between Israel and Lebanon in the Golan Heights on July 27, 2020. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said the claim was part of efforts to harm Israel’s ties to the US and undermine the new government.

The rumor spread after a spurious report in a far-right US news site was picked up by some mainstream Israeli news outlets, leading to an outcry from several politicians.

Lapid on Sunday told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that bipartisan support for Israel in the United States had been damaged during the Netanyahu years.

“In the past few years, mistakes were made,” Lapid said in a statement before their meeting in Rome. “Israel’s bipartisan standing was hurt. We will fix those mistakes together.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (C) greets Foreign Minister Yair Lapid ahead of their meeting in Rome, on June 27, 2021. (Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP)

Netanyahu last week accused Lapid of endangering Israel by pledging to update the US in advance on any military actions Israel could take against Iran.

According to the Foreign Ministry, Lapid and Blinken agreed on a policy of “no surprises” when they spoke earlier this month, and promised to maintain open and regular communication channels.

During the previous government led by Netanyahu, senior Israeli officials also agreed in talks with the US on the Iran nuclear file that there would be “no surprises” on the matter, and that disagreements would be addressed behind closed doors, a source familiar with the matter confirmed to The Times of Israel on Monday.

Like the previous government, the new one led by Bennett and Lapid is strongly opposed to the Biden administration’s efforts to reenter the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. However, Lapid — and reportedly Bennett as well — have stressed that whatever their disagreements with the US, they plan to address them quietly, rather than through public skirmishes the way Netanyahu did during the Obama administration.

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