Defense Minister Naftali Bennett sported some unexpected reading material during a visit to the Hatzor Air Force Base on Tuesday.
In a photo of Bennett walking with Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Amiram Norkin and other officials on the base, he is seen carrying a book that turns out to be the first volume of “Islam and Revolution,” a compilation of writing by none other than the leader of Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
The two-volume work, first published in 1981, compiled nearly forty years of Khomeini’s writings and speeches arguing that Islamic religious law, or sharia, provided an alternative mode of government to Western and modern ideas of liberal government.
The photo was tweeted by Channel 13’s Barak Ravid, and drew a torrent of mockery from Twitter users critical of Bennett.
שר הביטחון נפתלי בנט לקח איתו לביקור בבסיס חיל האוויר חצור את הספר הזה: "איסלאם ומהפכה 1 – מכתביו של האימאם חומייני" pic.twitter.com/bT35EuyLFG
— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) December 3, 2019
Asked by The Times of Israel if the photograph of Bennett carrying the book was a message to Iran, a spokesman for the defense minister replied in a text message: “I’ll leave that to your interpretation.” The spokesman then added a smiley face.
Then again, Bennett may have been sending a signal of a different sort and to an audience closer to home by traipsing around with a book in hand. He may be trying to follow in the long tradition of Israeli leaders who made a point of reading up on the country’s opponents, and of reading generally.
Israel’s early premiers, such as David Ben-Gurion and Levi Eshkol, prided themselves on their erudition and their libraries. Menachem Begin famously possessed a scholar’s command of the history of the Slavic peoples.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, too, who gave Bennett his first job in politics when he hired him as his chief of staff in 2006, prides himself on his own voracious reading habits and broad knowledge of history and world affairs. The premier has often been spotted distracting himself during lengthy Knesset plenum debates by reading historical works by the likes of Henry Kissinger and others.
Was Bennett signaling to the ayatollahs he was studying them, or to the Israeli voter that he’s prime ministerial material?
Or, more prosaically, was the former education minister inadvertently demonstrating that merely carrying a book around in the age of the smartphone and the Kindle was enough to get you noticed?
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.