Bennett wanted the benefits that go to longer-serving PMs, Lapid disagreed – report

Ex-PM denies sending request to change 18-month rule so he’d get car, driver, office; Bennett said worried his time as alternate PM won’t count; Lapid’s office: Relations are good

Incoming Prime Minister Yair Lapid (left) is briefed by his predecessor Naftali Bennett at the Prime Minister's Office, June 30, 2022. (Kobi Gideon / GPO)
Incoming Prime Minister Yair Lapid (left) is briefed by his predecessor Naftali Bennett at the Prime Minister's Office, June 30, 2022. (Kobi Gideon / GPO)

Despite serving for only 12 months, former prime minister Naftali Bennett reportedly prepared a request for financial and other benefits reserved for ex-premiers who served in their roles for at least 18 months — a request that interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid indicated he would not support.

According to a Channel 12 report Sunday, Bennett drafted a letter asking the Knesset Finance Committee to amend the criteria from 18 to 12 months to ensure he would be eligible for former prime ministers’ retirement conditions, which include a driver and vehicle and an annual budget to maintain an office with a team of two people.

Bennett served as Israel’s 13th prime minister until last week, when his coalition partner Lapid took over as premier as part of a power-sharing agreement that was triggered when Israel’s 24th Knesset voted to disband itself on Thursday morning, forcing fresh elections.

Lapid is now leading a caretaker government until a new one is sworn in after the November 1 election.

Bennett serves as alternate prime minister, a post previously held by Lapid.

In response to the report, Bennett’s office said that by virtue of his position as alternate prime minister, he is “entitled to an office and has no need for additional conditions. Therefore, he did not ask for anything from anyone. The letter in question was never sent because it was not needed,” according to Channel 12.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) briefs his successor Yair Lapid at the Prime Minister’s Office, June 30, 2022 (Haim Zach / GPO)

Without citing a source, the report said Bennett was concerned that the next Knesset, possibly headed by the current opposition, would not consider his brief period as alternate prime minister — for at least the next four months leading up to national elections — as contributing toward his total time as premier. This would leave him short of the 18 months needed for benefits eligibility. By contrast, if those four months were to be counted, along with the possible time it would take to form a new coalition, Bennett could get to the needed 18.

Channel 12 said Lapid’s office told Bennett that the prime minister would not support the request, creating tensions between the two allies. There was no source given for the information.

Lapid’s office said ties between the two were solid: “Relations are good and the two are working together.”

Lapid led his first cabinet meeting as prime minister on Sunday, listing hospital budget holdups, an ongoing educational system workforce dispute, and security threats among the issues that will have to be addressed during his tenure.

In Lapid’s first public speech as prime minister Saturday evening, he thanked his predecessor Bennett for the “orderly transition of power” and praised his leadership over the past 12 months.

“I want to start by thanking the 13th Prime Minister of the State of Israel, Naftali Bennett. For your decency, for your friendship and for leading the government this past year to economic and security achievements not seen here for years,” he said, adding “a special thank you for allowing the citizens of Israel to see an orderly transition this week between people who keep agreements and believe in one another.”

It was a jab at Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who broke a 2020 power rotation agreement with Defense Minister Benny Gantz and who last year only held a brief, 30-minute transition meeting with incoming prime minister Bennett.

Carrie Keller-Lynn contributed to this report.

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