Bennett Threatens to Bolt Coalition if Kerry Deal 'Inconsistent' With His Values

Habayit Hayehudi leader says his party is waiting to see what the U.S. framework deal looks like, tells Netanyahu: Put everything on the table and then I will judge.

Habayit Hayehudi is waiting to see the details of the U.S. secretary of state's draft framework agreement for Israeli-Palestinian peace before deciding whether to pull out of the coalition, party leader Naftali Bennett said on Tuesday.

Bennett said the right-wing religious Zionist faction would base its decision on whether the framework deal is "consistent" with its values.

His remarks come just days after his criticism of the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry over implications that Israel could face increasing isolation should peace negotiations with the Palestinians fail.

They also follow a public spat with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over whether Israeli settlers should remain in a future Palestinian state, which prompted Netanyahu to demand a public apology from Bennett and threaten to fire him.

Bennett has previously said his party would not sit in a government that negotiates with the Palestinians based on 1967 borders. Yet, on Tuesday, he clarified that Habayit Hayehudi would not make any decision before seeing Kerry's framework proposal.

Bennett said he told Netanyahu, "I can’t judge or say at the moment. Put everything on the table – document or no document, government decision or no government decision, signature or no signature, and then I will be able to judge."

"If [the agreement] is inconsistent with our values, we won’t sit in the coalition," Bennett said. "If it is, we will [stay in the government] and support the prime minister." He added that he has no plans to bolt just for appearances' sake, but also isn’t wedded to the notion of staying.

The Habayit Hayehudi leader appeared at the Israel National News Jerusalem Conference on Tuesday, where he spoke about his party's stance on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, among other topics.

The interviewer asked Bennett about remarks fellow Habayit Hayehudi MK Ayelet Shaked made at the conference, saying he was "striving to lead Israel." He responded, "I believe our spirit and our way can and must lead Israel."

When asked why he and Shaked joined the national religious party and not Likud, he said, "Habayit Hayehudi has played a historic role in Israel. Our historic role is to take Judaism and the Torah and to inject it into the soul of our state."

Bennett also spoke of Zionist leader Theodor Herzl's vision and said that Israel was not established because of the Holocaust, but because of the Bible.

"Our job is to turn the state into a real Jewish state…. Every day, the state is becoming more Jewish and that is a great blessing," Bennett said. "In the end, that is the battle: Are we a regular country like Norway or Sweden or are we a Jewish state? That is our role."
 

Emil Salman