Bennett Promises Vote Against Lieberman Appointment if Security Cabinet Is Not Reformed

Likud slams 'this method of issuing ultimatums,' but will have to negotiate with Habayit Hayehudi chair Bennett to reach required number of votes.

Minister Naftali Bennett in Knesset.
Emil Salman

Habayit Hayehudi chairman Education Minister Naftali Bennett is sticking to his ultimatum to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, threatening to vote against Avigdor Lieberman’s nomination as defense minister on Monday if the prime minister doesn’t appoint a special military secretary for the security cabinet. 

If Habayit Hayehudi votes with the opposition, there would be a majority of 62 voting against Netanyahu’s announcement, versus only 58 in favor, and the appointment will not go through. Habayit Hayehudi yesterday gave the Likud a list of its demands to upgrade the work of the security cabinet. 

Over the past few days, Netanyahu’s associates have preferred to finish the talks with Lieberman and sign a coalition agreement with him before dealing with Bennett’s demands. Habayit Hayehudi says its demands are final and Bennett will not compromise on this issue. On Tuesday, a senior Likud figure said, “His demand is not acceptable to us, and mainly we don’t accept this method of issuing ultimatums over every issue.”

Habayit Hayehudi director-general Nir Orbach said, “When everyone is talking about the security of Israeli citizens, Habayit Hayehudi is the only party whose demands are for the citizens and not for itself. We are vocally opposed to supporting this vote without our ethical demands being met.”

A Likud source said yesterday, “It’s clear that this crisis can be resolved, the question is how much Netanyahu is prepared to fold and give Bennett an achievement obtained through extortion. Right now it doesn’t look like Bennett will give in. Netanyahu’s problem is that Bennett’s demand sounds reasonable and worthy on a public level. Appointing a military secretary is not a move the prime minister would have difficulty making.”

Habayit Hayehudi yesterday distributed a letter supporting Bennett to party activists for their signatures.

“Habayit Hayehudi hasn’t demanded jobs or budgets,” the letter read. “Our demands are to save lives. The reason is simple: The flaws in the security cabinet cost us lives both during the Second Lebanon War and Operation Protective Edge. It’s our blood.”

The letter continued: “Excluding the security cabinet ministers brought us a hair’s breadth away from a strategic, mass-casualty terror attack on the Gaza envelope communities that was prevented by the stubbornness of Minister Bennett, who went to the field, met with commanders and brought the security cabinet information about the infiltration tunnels and presented a plan to destroy them.”