Defense Minister and Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett on Wednesday evening vowed not to sit in a government with Blue and White head Benny Gantz, reiterating his loyalty to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his support for the annexation of West Bank settlements.
“Obviously we will enter a right-wing government headed by Netanyahu,” he told supporters during a Yamina campaign event in Kfar Maccabiah.
Bennett decried what he described as “lies and rumors” that he would form a political alliance with Gantz, Netanyahu’s bitter rival.
“Under no circumstances will we enter an anti-religious and left-wing government of Gantz and [Yair] Lapid, who want to harm everything in which we believe,” he declared, adding that his party would not join a government without sovereignty over the West Bank.
Bennett has been a vocal supporter of annexation and has pushed Netanyahu to expedite bringing settlements under Israeli law. Last month, prior to the unveiling of the Trump administration’s “deal of the century,” he pushed for a cabinet vote to move ahead with such a move.
Minutes after US President Donald Trump revealed details of the long-awaited plan on January 28, Ambassador to Israel David Friedman briefed reporters and told them “Israel does not have to wait at all” when asked whether there was a “waiting period” that would have to elapse before the country could extend sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and settlements.
However, Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner has since said the United States would not support an annexation before the March 2 Knesset elections, and that work on the move by a joint team would take at least two months. Netanyahu has subsequently nixed plans to immediately go ahead with the step.
Subsequently, Friedman said that any “unilateral” Israeli decision to annex parts of the West Bank would endanger Washington’s Middle East peace plan.
Bennett was appointed defense minister by Netanyahu last November and the prime minister reportedly admitted to only doing so for political purposes related to coalition negotiations.
According to the Kan public broadcaster, Netanyahu has been personally briefing ministers from his Likud party in recent days before they give media interviews, asking them to explain he only tapped Bennett because he felt compelled to in light of information suggesting the right-wing lawmaker was planning to join forces with Gantz.