Netanyahu will dump settlers after elections, Bennett warns

Netanyahu will dump settlers after elections, Bennett warns

New Right leader claims PM has a history of pandering to religious Zionists during campaigns, then turning his back on them afterward

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett at a press conference in Tel Aviv, February 7, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Education Minister Naftali Bennett at a press conference in Tel Aviv, February 7, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

New Right party leader Naftali Bennett on Tuesday took a swing at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for courting religious Zionists ahead of coming elections, claiming that based on previous experience, the premier will dump them for more left-wing partners after the vote.

During an interview at a right-wing media conference in Jerusalem, Bennett highlighted Netanyahu’s coalition-building activities immediately after the last three national elections he won, saying that in each case the prime minister — despite having lavished praise on the settlement movement before the vote — sought to form a government with left-wing parties.

“Before the elections the religious Zionists are always loved, but a minute later they are the last ones to get a phone call; they aren’t counted [as valuable],” Bennett said.

Netanyahu’s Likud party dismissed Bennett’s remarks as hypocritical, saying, “People who exploit others and then cast then them aside shouldn’t preach to us about love and loyalty.”

In December Bennett, who is education minister, left the flagship religious Zionist party, Jewish Home, taking with him the party’s number two, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. Together they then jointly founded the New Right party.

At the conference, Bennett, who admitted he has a “very complicated relationship” with Netanyahu, lamented the attitude toward religious Zionists by elected leaders, which he described as “take a seat at the back of the bus. I am driving; don’t bother me.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with religious journalists, February 11, 2019 (Courtesy)

On Monday Netanyahu called for right-wing religious parties Jewish Home, National Union, Otzma Yehudit and Yachad to unite.

Such a union, Netanyahu predicted, would save six-seven seats for the right-wing bloc in parliament, Channel 12 news reported.

“You must not lose these votes, because at the end of this there is either a left-wing wing government or a right-wing government,” Netanyahu told a gathering of religious journalists. “The split on the right will inevitably lead to a loss in the elections.”

A Channel 12 survey published on Saturday night saw Likud winning 32 seats but the Jewish Home, National Union and Otzma Yehudit parties not passing the Knesset threshold of 3.25%. Jointed as a united slate, they were predicted to win six seats in the Knesset. The New Right was predicted to win eight seats.

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