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The straw that broke the back of Bennett’s chief of staff

Relying on the Joint List is a red line that the prime minister’s closest associate cannot cross.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett leads a Cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on May 8, 2022. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett leads a Cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on May 8, 2022. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.
Yehuda Shlezinger (Israel Hayom)
Yehuda Shlezinger
Yehuda Shlezinger writes for Israel Hayom.

In May 2012, four people met at a café in Ra’anana—Naftali Bennett, Ayelet Shaked, Tal Gan-Zvi and strategist Moshe Klughaft. On the agenda was whether to run in the upcoming elections as part of Habayit Hayehudi or establish a new political party, Hayisraelim—a right-wing list that would suit Bennett, who had just ended his term as chairman of the Yesha Council.

Ten months later, the name Naftali Bennett would come to symbolize the right-wing camp in the political and security cabinet. Ten years later, Bennett’s most loyal associate, Gan-Zvi, has left the Prime Minister’s Office after the right-wing outlook they set out to promote became blurred.

Gan-Zvi left on good terms. No badmouthing, enemies, scandals, commotions or conflicts with fellow colleagues. And yet, his departure is a very significant ideological statement, because Gan-Zvi is what could be described as a “classic” right-winger.

A religious Zionist and longtime resident of a Judea and Samaria settlement, he studied at a pre-military school as a teenager and served in the elite Egoz unit. He cannot come to terms with the direction the Bennett government has taken; but like any good mechanic, he tried to have an impact from within, which was not easy.

Attempts at the development of new settlements—a taboo among left-wing lawmakers—were unsuccessful. Even the most minor matters, such as convening the Supreme Planning Council, which authorizes construction in Judea and Samaria, took months of effort vis-à-vis Defense Minister Benny Gantz. Gan-Zvi endured and endured.

But the possibility that the coalition would have to rely on the Joint List was the last straw. It was not easy for Gan-Zvi to accept that the Islamist Ra’am party was part of the government either, but there is a major difference between Ra’am’s leader Mansour Abbas and the Joint List’s Ahmad Tibi.

Abbas visited a synagogue that was targeted in May of last year during Operation Guardian of the Walls, while Tibi assaulted an Israel Police officer last week, which helped a protester on his way to commit violence escape. Tibi also jumped at the chance to defame Israel by declaring without evidence that it had killed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Jenin.

The clear understanding that, in order to survive, the coalition will need the help of the Joint List is a red line that Gan-Zvi cannot cross, which is why he decided to resign ahead of time.

On Sunday, he announced the end of his long-standing relationship with the prime minister, who immediately understood what prompted the move. If this is how Bennett’s most loyal associate acts, things look dim for the prime minister.

Yehuda Shlezinger is Israel Hayom’s religious affairs correspondent.

This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.

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