Economy Minister Naftali Bennett
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett speaking in the Knesset. Photo by Olivier Pittousi
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The Prime Minister's Office sharply condemned Economy Minister Naftali Bennett on Monday for making "irresponsible" comments that harm the prime minister's efforts to expose Palestinian intransigence in the peace process.

The PMO blamed Bennett for "reckless national endangerment that harms efforts to expose the real face of the Palestinian Authority just to grab headlines," for his unprecedented attack against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's suggestion that Israelis could live under Palestinian rule.

Bennett was responding on Sunday to remarks made by Netanyahu at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where he said he has no intention of uprooting a single settlement and suggested settlers could remain outside Israel's borders under a peace agreement with the Palestinians. Bennett said Netanyahu's comments reflect "ethical befuddlement" and that "whoever even considers having Jews live in the Land of Israel under Palestinian sovereignty undermines our presence in Tel Aviv.”

Officials in Bennett's office responded on Friday, saying that Netanyahu has not said in any forum in recent days that he is planning on carrying out a move that would expose the real face of the Palestinian Authority. "Netanyahu and Bennett sat yesterday for six hours together in meetings and the prime minister did not say anything on the matter," Bennett's aides said. "Next time the prime minister comes up with a brilliant tactical move, he may want to coordinate it with his ministers."

Three Likud deputy ministers – Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin, Deputy Transportation Minister Tzipi Hotovely and Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon also issued angry protests at Netanyahu following the press briefing.

“Only someone who suffers from the illusion that ‘the wolf will lie down with the lamb,’ and that one can place the lives of hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens at the mercy of those who conducted the [October 2000] lynch in Ramallah, can truly believe that we can assure the security of the Dan region and the central region if a Palestinian state is established,” wrote Elkin.

Hotovely said that any diplomatic plan that abandons Jewish communities to Palestinian sovereignty “will not get any political backing from the Likud.”

“We will not leave settlers across enemy lines,” added Danon. “I would not wish upon my enemies to live under Palestinian sovereignty.”

Netanyahu's spokesmen criticized the Palestinian Authority for rejecting the scenario of Jewish settlements remaining in the territory of a future Palestinian state." There is nothing that reveals more the lack of willingness of the PA to reach a solution with Israel than the extreme and reckless reaction to an unofficial statement," Netanyahu's office said. 

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that "Anyone who says he wants to keep settlers in the Palestinian state is actually saying that he doesn't want a Palestinian state. No settler will be allowed to stay in the Palestinian state, not even a single one, because settlements are illegal and the presence of the settlers on the occupied lands is illegal."