(February 26, 2020 / Israel Hayom) “I’d rather sit in the opposition than join a government led by Benny Gantz. I’d also sooner face a fourth election than sit in his cabinet,” Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett told Israel Hayom this week.
Bennett, who heads the Yamina faction—an alliance of the national-religious New Right, National Union and Jewish Home parties—said that this was because “I am a rightist, and Blue and White is the left-wing party.”
Blue and White itself is a faction, comprising the Israel Resilience Party, headed by Gantz, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party, and Telem, headed by former Israel Defense Forces chief Moshe Ya’alon.
“At the heart of Blue and White, you have Yesh Atid,” said Bennett. “They want to evict tens of thousands of settlers from their homes, and Yair Lapid, who is anti-religious, has said in the past that the  disengagement [from the Gaza Strip] was punishment for the national-religious public. I don’t share these opinions, and therefore I will not sit [in a government] with them. I will join only a Netanyahu government,” he added.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, has warned several times that Yamina may break from the right-wing bloc after the March 2 elections despite its campaign promises.
Bennett denied the charge, saying, “The 11th commandment says a rightist does not turn on another rightist—Netanyahu taught me that. It’s not pleasant to be on the receiving end of these attacks by Netanyahu, but I’m not responsible for his actions—only for my own.”
The defense minister added however that reprisal was out of the question.
“The [electoral] division should be such that Likud supporters vote for Likud, and those who support the ideological right and religious Zionism vote for Yamina. I am not going to target anyone within the right-wing camp. We’ll have to keep taking it because a rightist does not turn on another rightist,” he said.
Commenting on the recent round of hostilities between Israel and the Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terrorist group, Bennett stated that a wide-scale military operation in the Gaza Strip was just a matter of time.
“The only way to change the situation on the ground is by rebooting it as soon as possible. In this round [of violence], I learned that it’s inevitable,” he said.
The defense minister noted that he opposes the “flare-up model” in which Israel and Gaza go from one round of violence to the next, saying that this time, he had ordered the IDF to exact a higher price from the terrorist group and its patrons outside Gaza.
“We have raised the bar, and if the Gaza-vicinity communities can’t have peace and quiet, neither will Damascus,” he said, referring to a strike on PIJ targets near the Syrian capital on Sunday. Iran is PIJ’s main sponsor.
Touching on the issue of Netanyahu’s legal troubles, Bennett said he believes it is not the High Court of Justice’s place to prevent the Likud leader from forming a government if he is again elected prime minister.
Netanyahu is facing corruption charges in three different cases. His trial is set to begin on March 17.
“It would be irresponsible, devastating even, if they [High Court justices] disqualify him. Doing that means the court essentially tells the public, ‘You don’t matter.’ It would be devastating in terms of public confidence in the judiciary. They shouldn’t do it, and I hope they don’t,” he concluded.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.
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