Jewish Home leader claims Netanyahu planning to form coalition with center-left parties

Controversial hardliner Naftali Bennett calls for end to ‘friendly fire’ on the right, then slams the prime minister

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel.

Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Controversial Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett on Monday entreated right-wing politicians to end “friendly fire” attacks, and in the same breath accused the prime minister of conspiring to form a government with center-left parties.

Speaking to TV’s Channel 2 on Monday, Bennett called for a cessation of what he said was the mutually detrimental criticism of him by politicians on the same side of the spectrum, following days of attacks on him by the Likud.

“A nationalist camp person doesn’t attack another nationalist. It’s totally unnecessary to play on the internal court. We need to take votes away from [Hatnua party leader Tzipi] Livni,” he said.

“Debate over policy is perfectly acceptable,” he said, “but to get up in the morning and see a flood of anonymous attack ads is not alright.”

Bennett, who last Thursday said he would go to jail rather than follow an order to evacuate settlements, has been attacked for that position by Likud leaders from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on down, backtracked, saw ads appear in Hebrew newspapers on Sunday castigating him, and had ads supporting him published on Monday.

Bennett added that he was concerned that Netanyahu was plotting to form a government with Livni and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid center-left parties and exclude his religious-nationalist Jewish Home party, which is heading for 11-13 seats in next month’s elections according to recent polls.

“Netanyahu prefers weak, non-influential parties at his side; he wants to navigate alone. We want to hold the steering wheel with him,” said Bennett, a former chief of staff to the prime minister who won the leadership of the Jewish Home party in early November and has revitalized it.

Netanyahu launched a scathing rebuke this weekend on Bennett’s remarks about insubordination, and said no politician or party that advocates refusing IDF orders could sit in his government.

“If I am ever given an order to evacuate a Jew from his home… personally, my conscience won’t allow me to do it; I’ll ask my commander to grant me an exemption, [but] I won’t call for [mass] insubordination,” Bennett, who served in the same elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit as Netanyahu, said in an interview with Channel 2’s Nissim Mishal. He said he would go to jail rather than evacuate settlers.

Pressed about the values he instilled in his soldiers as an officer in Sayeret Matkal, Bennett said: “I taught them that a command that’s topped by a black flag should not be carried out.” The “black flag” terminology refers to the IDF ethos that an order that is patently illegal must not be obeyed.

He later clarified that he was discussing his own objections to following such an order and that he was not recommending insubordination among soldiers over political issues.

Netanyahu lashed out against Bennett, calling his comments “very grave,” and said that “there will be no room in my cabinet for anyone who supports insubordination.”

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed