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Bennett: I want a coalition that spans from Ben Gvir to Mansour Abbas — that might sound like fiction

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in a Channel 12 TV interview broadcast on June 25, 2022. (Channel 12 screenshot)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in a Channel 12 TV interview broadcast on June 25, 2022. (Channel 12 screenshot)

In a long and candid interview with Channel 12 news, outgoing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett talks at length about some of his mistakes in the job, his attitude to the Yamina party MKs whose defections cost him his majority, his thinking on Benjamin Netanyahu’s fitness to return as prime minister, and the kind of government he believes Israel needs.

In one of the many dramatic passages, he asks hypothetically, “Would a government that depends on [far-right Religious Zionism MKs Itamar] Ben Gvir and [Bezalel] Smotrich be good for Israel? No. I’m not saying they’re barred, but [the government] cannot be dependent on them… I greatly respect [Ra’am party leader] Mansour Abbas but it’s not good to be dependent on him. I want him in the coalition. [But] this year proved it’s not good to be dependent on the extremes.”

Bennett then says, “I want a coalition [that spans the political spectrum] from Itamar Ben Gvir to Mansour Abbas — that might sound like fiction to you…”

It certainly does, interjects interviewer Dana Weiss.

Bennett continues, “The whole culture of ‘invalidation’ has to go.”

Weiss then asks him if Netanyahu is a potential partner.

“If it’s Netanyahu the 2015 model, who ran the state in a restrained manner, without going to crazy extremes, it’s perfectly fine [to partner with him in government]. [But] if it’s [a situation with Netanyahu] that you go to very bad places, then no.”

“I’m a right-winger, but what Israel needs now is a government that simply goes to work,” he says, saying that’s what his coalition did.

Weiss presses him on Netanyahu, asking if Netanyahu is fit to be prime minister of Israel at this time.

Bennett replies: “I’m not awarding grades… It depends on what he would do. It depends on what constraints are on him.”

Says Weiss: But you’ve condemned him during your premiership for his toxic machine and fake news…

Bennett: “Terrible and unacceptable behavior.”

But the core issue that determines political alliances, he indicates, has to be what is in the interests of Israel.

In that case, asks Weiss, why not set up a government right now with the right?

Says Bennett: “To set up a government in which the… center-left component is in mourning, and will be trampled, and have its bones broken, as [right-wing] MKs say, would be very bad.”

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