Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called on the expected new right-wing government not “to trample” the left, after opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s bloc secured a majority in this week’s election.
Bennett, who is due to soon retire and leave politics, also urged left-wing Israelis not to despair over the election outcome. The next coalition is likely to be composed of Netanyahu’s Likud party, the far-right Religious Zionism alliance and the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism factions, which together won 64 of the Knesset’s 120 seats for a decisive majority.
“The results are not the end of the country,” Bennett said in a statement Friday.
The former premier slammed “talk” of leaving Israel in response to Tuesday’s vote and the prospect of parents no longer sending their children to serve in combat units for their mandatory military service.
“IDF service cannot depend on the government’s identity,” he said. “This country is all of ours and we have no other land.”
Seeking to tamp down concerns among supporters of the outgoing coalition over the likely next government, Bennett said he believed incoming ministers would work for the general public “and not a specific community.”
“Naturally, when a minister takes office, particularly in the diplomatic-security field, he sees a broader and fuller picture,” he said, without naming any specific politicians or ministries.
He then appealed to the victorious right-religious bloc: “Respect the losing side. There is no need to trample or run over anyone,” he urged.
Acknowledging the election result, Bennett said Netanyahu’s bloc won a mandate to enact right-wing policies, “but no one should be made to feel that he is unwelcome.”
“Left-wingers love the country no less than right-wingers, they just hold different opinions regarding the correct direction. Ultimately, all of us need to live here together,” he added.
Bennett also defended his yearlong stint as prime minister, which ended after his power-sharing government collapsed in June and new elections were called. He seemed to swipe at Netanyahu, who he replaced as premier following elections last year.
“A year and a half ago I inherited a difficult economic crisis, mass employment, a south burning from rockets and arson balloons, waves of coronavirus and a country without a budget, and I returned a country with economic growth, a strong budget and the quietest south in over 20 years,” he said.
“Of course, there are many more challenges — the cost of living, crime in Arab society, the rise in terror attacks and more,” Bennett added.
The statement came a day after Bennett told outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid that he will step down in the coming days, curtailing a decade-long career in politics that was capped — and seemingly doomed — by his surprise ascension to the premiership last year.