Bennett’s wife: PM prefers ‘economic holocaust’ over ceding management of crisis

Gilat Bennett says Netanyahu would rather preside over financial disaster than allow her husband to run things, challenge his popularity; Likud derides opposition ‘moral preaching’

Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home party, and his wife Gilat make their way to the ballot box to cast a vote in the Israeli general elections on January 22, 2012 (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home party, and his wife Gilat make their way to the ballot box to cast a vote in the Israeli general elections on January 22, 2012 (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Gilat Bennett, the wife of Yamina head Naftali Bennett, on Monday launched an attack on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying the premier was prepared to lead the country into an “economic holocaust” rather than allow her husband to manage the coronavirus crisis.

Bennett was responding to a Facebook post urging that her husband, a long-term critic of the government’s response to the pandemic, be put in charge of the country’s efforts to contain the virus.

“It is amazing — the fact that Netanyahu, despite his resounding failures, does not think [Bennett should be overseeing the handling of the crisis], proves how uninterested he is in this country. As far as he’s concerned, we could go through an economic holocaust as long as nobody is loved more than he is,” she wrote.

As defense minister during the first wave of the outbreak, Bennett lobbied for his ministry to be given more responsibility over the pandemic, to little avail.

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett of Yamina, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting of right-wing parties, March 4, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Netanyahu’s Likud party responded to Gilat’s post, saying that Bennett had chosen to remain in the opposition rather than join the government and take an active role.

“While Prime Minister Netanyahu is working around the clock to save the lives and livelihoods of Israeli citizens, we will not accept moral preaching from those who preferred to remain in the opposition instead of being accountable and working for Israeli citizens, and who, while they were in the coalition, engaged in nonstop leaks from the cabinet.”

Bennett, a former Netanyahu ally now in the opposition and increasingly critical, last week accused government ministers of behaving as if they were in a “kindergarten,” and charged that “the failure to form an emergency task force against the coronavirus caused mass unemployment.”

Last week he also set up what he called a “civilian coronavirus cabinet” to “present ways of dealing with the economic and medical crisis, and assist with communicating information to the public, and recommendations for reducing the harm to the economy.”

With eased restrictions, unemployment rates that were below 4% before the start of the pandemic were estimated at a whopping 20.9% on July 5 according to the National Employment Service data, with 847,207 people looking for jobs, 584,819 of them furloughed.

Closed shops and restaurants in Tel Aviv on March 15, 2020. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Those numbers are expected to rise with the renewed restrictions passed on Monday which Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said were aimed at avoiding a national lockdown in the next week or two.

The Health Ministry on Monday evening released new figures showing 962 coronavirus infections in the previous 24 hours. The last few weeks have seen the reversal of many of the gains made in the fight against the coronavirus in recent months. New daily virus cases, which had dropped to low double digits through most of May, have soared to some 1,000 per day, and the number of active cases has reached an all-time high of more than 12,300.

Naftali Bennett (R) and his wife, Gilat cast their votes during the Jewish Home party’s primary, in Jerusalem, on January 14, 2014 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Facebook post was not the first time Gilat was involved in a spat between her husband and the prime minister — in December 2018, Channel 12 news reported while Bennett was serving as education minister, that Netanyahu used his relationship with businessman Shaul Elovitch to seek negative coverage of Gilat.

The report said of the Walla news site owner that: “One day Netanyahu asked him to publish a negative report that Gilat, Naftali Bennett’s wife, served as a chef at non-kosher restaurants. They didn’t agree to publish such a thing.”

An incensed Bennett responded to the report, saying that Netanyahu had carried out a “vile and cowardly act.”

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