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Top Bennett aide who quit: PM gave in to political ‘blackmail,’ failed at management

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, right, speaks with his foreign policy adviser Shimrit Meir at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on January 26, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, right, speaks with his foreign policy adviser Shimrit Meir at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on January 26, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Shimrit Meir, a top diplomatic adviser to outgoing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett who resigned from her position last month, says in an interview that she quit because Bennett was “giving in” to threats by various members of his coalition, alleging that the right-wing premier was willing to rely on the opposition Joint List predominantly Arab party, in a “desperate” attempt to save his coalition.

“I answered that it would be a very grave mistake,” Meir says in an interview with the Ynet news site. “I thought he was mowing down the government’s legitimacy out of his will to cling on [to the leadership].”

Meir alleges that the coalition failed miserably in managing its members: “The political management was a failure from day one. Had my area of responsibility been managed like the political one, the Syrians would have already been on the fences [of the Israel border].”

She says the moment where “everything started to go totally downhill” was when Yamina MK Idit Silman quit the coalition and other members of Bennett’s party started to “blackmail” the premier.

Shimrit Meir, then editor-in-chief of Al Masdar (The Source), an online Arabic-language newspaper, in Tel Aviv, March 2, 2015. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash 90)

Meir adds that Bennett’s relationship with Yamina No. 2 Ayelet Shaked — who will become party leader in the upcoming elections — has been rocky for several years. She alleges that Shaked has no political base — “on the contrary, she scares away [voters]” — and that “for several months she threatened Bennett with a gun that was empty of bullets.”

She also says the government “gave in to blackmail” by the Islamist Ra’am party when it froze its coalition membership over tensions in Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

“Everyone was waiting for the Shura Council that night,” she says. “Yair Lapid sent [his chief-of-staff] Naama Schultz to Kafr Qassim with an open check. I told Bennett, you must stop this. This government will be painted with the colors of surrender to the Arabs. Blackmail and surrender — and we were still in the midst of a terror wave.”

Eventually, Meir says, she decided to resign because “I understood he wasn’t listening [to me]. He doesn’t want to hear. And I understood there was no sense to the madness.”

Responding to criticism that she had pulled Bennett closer to the political center and was behind Bennett referring to the “West Bank” in a speech rather than the biblical name Judea and Samaria commonly used in Hebrew, Meir says that’s “nonsense.”

“[Former premier Benjamin] Netanyahu said ‘West Bank’ a million times,” she says. “I don’t remember who wrote it, but I approved it, absentmindedly.”

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