Bennett Says Israel Pushing for Long-term Truce in Gaza 'But if Not, There Are Alternatives'

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Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in jerusalem, on Saturday
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in jerusalem, on SaturdayCredit: Abir Sultan,AP
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Haaretz

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was interviewed on Tuesday evening by several television channels. On Channel 12, Bennett responded to contradictions between promises he made before his premiership commenced, and his actions since he took up the position.

“This room [the prime minister's office] is the most important room in the world. And when you arrive here, go through the door, you have to arrive clean, and leave all the politics behind.” He added that his value system is "stable and long-term, but certainly, when you are sitting here, there are complex considerations behind every move, and it isn’t like anything else.”

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In response, Netanyahu's Likud party said, “We all saw just three months ago what Bennett’s word is worth – when he’s interviewed he generally does just the opposite … it would behoove Bennett to stop dealing just with his survival and work for the health and lives of Israeli citizens.”

Religious Zionism chairman Bezalel Smotrich also slammed the prime minister. “Bennett is essentially saying outright that he never had an ideology. That he lied all the years when he acted as if he did. That everything he said in the past about any subject was no more than ‘politics’ that he is now shucking off. He of course continues to lie, and now, too, everything is politics with him.”

With regard to the situation in Gaza, Bennett said that the option of a military operation is on the table. “The defense minister has taken on himself a move, and is working very hard on it, to come to an arrangement and long-term calm in Gaza. If this succeeds, that’s great, but if not, there are alternatives.” He added that in contrast to previous governments, his government responds “to every balloon” sent from Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony BlinkenCredit: Olivier Douliery/Reuters

In the interview, the prime minister was asked if he meets with opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu to give him monthly updates, as is customary. He replied, “He [Netanyahu] meanwhile isn’t showing signs of interest in anything. Of course the bureau is always open, and I would be pleased to update, I think that’s desirable. The custom is that he asks, and we have the meeting. If he wants it, he’ll get it.”

With regard to Iran, Bennett said that he received “a tough legacy,” adding, “Israel inherited a situation in which Iran is at the most advance point ever in the race to a nuclear bomb.” He said about Netanyahu, “the gap between rhetoric and speeches and deeds is very great.”

Bennett also addressed the coronavirus situation and said that his government is trying to do everything to avoid a lockdown. He plans to make a few decisions regarding the return of children to school after the holidays. “We are going to do another round of antigen tests, that all the parents will check their kids the day before school resumes,” he said.

“I am also examining the possibility not to quarantine an entire class when there’s a confirmed case, but that the confirmed case should go home and the rest of the class get tested very frequently. We are thinking of starting this on October 1, it will be decided soon,” he added.

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