Bennett to Netanyahu and Ya'alon: Government Debate Shouldn't Be Personal

'It's important that we hold an in-depth debate on the issue itself,' education minister says after being derided as 'reckless' and 'childish.'

Education Minister Naftali Bennett speaking at the INSS conference in Tel Aviv, January 20, 2016.
Chen Galili / INSS

Education Minister Naftali Bennett said Wednesday that the state's leaders must be mature enough to examine their basic assumptions and renew them. He also said the debate on Israel's security must not be held on a personal level but should focus on the issue itself.

"The greatness of every system is its ability to renew itself and examine its axioms, it's a matter of life and death," Bennett said at the annual conference of the Union of Local Authorities and Jewish National Fund in Haifa.

"The security of Israel's people depends on it. So it's important that we hold an in-depth debate on the issue itself and not on a personal level," he said.

Bennett's comments were the latest installment in a series of verbal clashes with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon over Israel's defense policy on Tuesday. The education minister had been criticized by Netanyahu and Ya'alon after blaming them for Israel's policy of mental stagnation and maintaining the status quo.

He said the main threat facing Israel was not Hamas, Hezbollah or Iran, but mental stagnation and the government leaders' "inability to think out of the box."  Speaking at the annual conference of the Institute for National Security Studies, he said that "Instead of shaping our future with our own hands, Israel is being dragged along."

In response Ya'alon accused Bennett of being reckless, childish and of harming national security.

Sources close to the prime minister also attacked his remarks. “We snickered after hearing Bennett’s words,” said Netanyahu associates. “Once again Bennett is repeating his familiar pattern of behavior. He hears ideas that come up in various forums with the prime minister and then uses them as his own.”

The sources noted specifically that the issue of not granting immunity to Iran in the event of a war against Hezbollah in Lebanon is a subject that was discussed in the security cabinet, as was the possibility of changing the policy of the siege in Gaza. “These are all things that came up in the cabinet and now he’s presenting them as his own ideas," they said. "It’s simply absurd."