Naftali Bennett lied his way to the top

This is not the time for Israel to be experimenting with leaders.

Yamina Party leader Naftali Bennett arrives at the President's Rouse in Jerusalem, May 5, 2021. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.
Yamina Party leader Naftali Bennett arrives at the President's Rouse in Jerusalem, May 5, 2021. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.
Martin Oliner
Martin Oliner
Martin Oliner is chairman of the Religious Zionists of America, chairman of the Center for Righteousness and Integrity, president of the Culture for Peace Institute and a committee member of the Jewish Agency. He was appointed by former U.S. president Donald Trump and serves as a member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. The views expressed are his own. Martinoliner@gmail.com

Israel’s incoming prime minister, Naftali Bennett, justified breaking his campaign promises by saying that had he kept them, Israel would be going to another election.

That lie justifying his lies proves that Bennett will not be starting his term on the right (pun intended) foot. I don’t know if Bennett has a right foot, or if he ever really did. But he’s responsible for bringing down the right and its iconic prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

He could have joined a coalition with Netanyahu, who even offered a three-man rotation as prime minister with New Hope Party leader Gideon Sa’ar. But he preferred from day one after the election to go with the left.

Bennett promised that he would not join a government in which Yair Lapid would serve as prime minister, even in a rotation. Yet he will end up serving as prime minister in a government built and controlled by Lapid, and then under Lapid as prime minister in the unlikely scenario that the government lasts until August 2023.

“In no way will I give my hand to a government led by Yair Lapid, not in a regular way or with a rotation, because I am a right-wing man and Lapid is a man of the left and I don’t sell my values,” Bennett said, knowing full well that it was a lie when he said it. He has a history of being made a fool of by Netanyahu. Now it’s Lapid who’s doing that to him.

He promised that he would not sit in a coalition with Meretz. But its leader, Nitzan Horowitz, who said that Israeli soldiers should be on trial at the Hague, will be in the security cabinet, deciding on issues of life and death. There will also be an Arab minister in the government.

Another coalition partner, Labor, also has extremists in Ibtisam Mara’ana, who bragged about driving through the siren on Memorial Day, and Gilad Kariv, an activist Reform rabbi who is fond of provocations and J Street. Its leader, Merav Michaeli, will be the minister of transportation. Will the roads stop again on the pre-1967 border?

Bennett also promised not to join a government backed in any way by Ra’am of the Joint Arab List, and its chairman, Mansour Abbas, the leader of the Southern Islamic Movement, which is part of the Muslim Brotherhood. Now, after giving the Brotherhood a say in his policies, Bennett is calling Abbas a courageous leader and pledging billions to his pet causes in order to build a minority government.

When Bennett said, during “Operation Guardian of the Walls,” that the government could not take steps that needed to be taken in mixed cities with Abbas in the government, he was absolutely right. Was he being truthful?

Bennett’s party is called Yamina (“rightward”), and the people have indeed moved to the right, while Bennett has ironically moved to the left. He lost his integrity by putting his own personal good over that of the country and a majority of its people, especially his own voters.

Whom does he represent anymore? What does he stand for anymore? He and his coalition partners do not agree on anything other than hatred of Netanyahu.

It is true that Netanyahu made too many enemies over his many years in power, and Bennett took advantage of that to become prime minister. Netanyahu has mistreated the politicians who served under him and did not build up a successor who could have taken over had he decided to do the right thing and stand aside to keep the right in power, with a coalition of 80 mandates.

Perhaps the one positive from forming this government is that it could ensure that with Netanyahu removed, the right will head all governments after this one in the foreseeable future. Then again, it makes sense that the man who made Israel into the vaccination nation, kept the country safe and brought Israel peace with five Muslim countries without giving anything up should be heralded, not replaced.

The world is becoming a scarier place, and Israel needs Netanyahu more than ever to deal with it. How will Israel tell the world not to go back to the terrible Iran deal if its own foreign minister, Yair Lapid, supported it? How will Israel deal with the challenges of Joe Biden’s administration without the man that the U.S. president calls “my friend, Bibi”?

This is not the time for Israel to be experimenting with inexperienced leaders.

Bennett and Lapid announced that they’d formed a government half an hour before the deadline. Had the deadline passed, there would have been three weeks in which a right-wing government could have been formed to avoid another election.

But going to an election is certainly preferable to having a left-wing government that the people of Israel clearly did not want the last time they went to the polls. In the final analysis: Sooner or later, a fifth election is inevitable.

Martin Oliner is co-president of the Religious Zionists of America-Mizrachi, chairman of the Center for Righteousness and Integrity, and a committee member of the Jewish Agency. He was appointed by former President Donald Trump as a member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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