Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to snub his successor, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, while giving a speech at an event to mark the departure of outgoing Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman.
Netanyahu gave a long list of greetings to all the dignitaries present, but failed to acknowledge Bennett, leading to angry calls from some in the crowd, telling Netanyahu that “there’s a prime minister here.”
Hebrew media said Netanyahu decided to ignore Bennett in response to a supposed slight against Netanyahu in Bennett’s speech when he said “we are now in the age of we, not the age of me.”
An official in Bennett’s office told the Ynet news site that Bennett was referring to cooperation needed between the various security branches. However, that line was not included in the official transcript of his speech that was released.
Bennett became prime minister in June, ending more than a decade of rule by Netanyahu, when he managed to pull together a widely disparate coalition of eight right-wing, centrist, left-wing, and Arab parties, who mostly only agreed on the need to oust Netanyahu and break a two-year political deadlock.
Netanyahu has continued to disparage and delegitimize Bennett and his government since returning to the opposition.
On Monday, during a stormy Knesset plenum session, Netanyahu alleged that Bennett was “not a real prime minister.”
“When I was a three-year-old, I arranged the chairs in the living room, added wings, sat down and said: ‘I’m a pilot, I’m flying a plane,’ but I wasn’t a pilot. I was sitting in a chair, pretending I’m a pilot,” Netanyahu said.
“When a three-year-old does that, it’s cute. When Bennett sits on the prime minister’s chair and says: ‘I’m a pilot, I’m flying this plane’ — but in reality, he isn’t making the decisions — he may be prime minister by title but he isn’t a real prime minister. It isn’t cute, it’s pathetic and even dangerous. It’s all pretending,” the opposition chief said.
Bennett, meanwhile, has portrayed his new government as representing a new path of cooperation and dialogue, both in Israel and in relations with the world, accusing Netanyahu of divisiveness and self-interest in his time in power.
Bennett and Netanyahu were attending an event to honor the outgoing Shin Bet chief.
Argaman’s successor Ronen Bar began his tenure as head of the internal security agency on Wednesday.