Bennett Blasts Netanyahu for Supporting 'Land of Israel in Hebrew and Palestinian State in English'

Education minister says Israel must assert its right to the land openly and clearly. 'The world smells weakness just as it identifies strength.'

Bennett and Netanyahu, November 26, 2015.
Bennett and Netanyahu, November 26, 2015. Moti Milrod

Education Minister Naftali Bennett sharply attacked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday night for their recent statements in favor of both a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Arab peace initiative.

"There are those, both in Israel and the world, who are signing up for various Arab peace initiatives, according to which Israel will be divided – God forbid, Jerusalem will be divided – and we'll return to the '67 lines," Bennett said during an address at Yeshivat Mercaz Harav in Jerusalem.

"Because the world is feeling pressured and we need to appease it."

"My answer to them tonight is – never!"

"We all stand together like a rock for the wholeness of our land," Bennett stated. "We don't stutter, we don't get confused, we don't exaggerate."

Bennett also indirectly criticized Netanyahu for opposing a Palestinian state before the 2015 elections and supporting it after the elections.

"The time has come to say clearly: The land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel," Bennett said. "In Hebrew, English, Russian and French; in summer and in winter; when there are elections and when there aren't. Why? Because the world listens to every word we say."

"The world identifies weakness just as it identifies strength," Bennett added. "The world smells when we aren't certain about our right to the land and attacks us furiously with boycotts.

"We can't be in favor of the land of Israel in Hebrew and establish a Palestinian state in English."

Habayit Hayehudi said Sunday that "we respect the prime minister and his leadership, but we will not allow him to adopt the Arab initiative that includes returning to the '67 borders, the division of Jerusalem and the introduction of refugees."

Bennett's statements open yet another confrontation with the prime minister following his public ultimatum last week concerning reforms to the security cabinet.

The rift between Bennett and Netanyahu has been growing in recent weeks, against the background of Lieberman's entry into the Defense Ministry and Bennett's insistence that a military secretary be appointed to the security cabinet. 

Netanyahu refused Bennett's demand, and the two reached a compromise only after the education minister threatened to sabotage Lieberman's nomination. Since then, Netanyahu has made renewed efforts to bring the Zionist Union into the coalition ahead of pushing Habayit Hayehudi out. 

In recent days, Netanyahu updated the heads of factions within the coalition on political contacts and on his public confrontation with Bennett.

"Netanyahu made clear that he would not give Bennett a second chance if he picked another confrontation with him," said a source familiar with the talks. "It is unclear what wins out at this point," the source added, "Netanyahu's hatred of Bennett or his fear of Bennett heading to the opposition."

"The prime minister seems to be very concerned with the possibility that Bennett would steal Likud's extreme voters and Ya'alon would steal Likud's moderate voters."

Bennett's associates claimed that he is not attempting to worsen the conflict with Netanyahu and noted that Habayit Hayehudi prefers to remain in the coalition and hold the justice portfolio for the next term, but noted that leaving the coalition would also please his constituency.

Zionist Union chairman MK Isaac Herzog said Saturday he might join a government headed by Netanyahu even during the current term. Herzog conditioned such a step on Habayit Hayehudi leaving the coalition and his own faction agreeing to the move.

Habayit Hayehudi officials called Herzog's remarks "a last-ditch attempt to exploit the crisis in confidence" between Bennett and Netanyahu, in order to bring about a unity government at Bennett's expense.