The office of Education Minister Naftali Bennett admitted Monday it was a “poor metaphor” when Bennett said he had “fired a bullet” between the eyes of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
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Early Monday, Army Radio reported that Bennett had made the remark when meeting with activists from his Habayit Hayehudi party last week. He was discussing his opposition to any further unilateral withdrawals such as the 2005 Gaza pullout.
According to Army Radio, activists urged Bennett to work to renew construction in the settlements, and Bennett said that “anyone who thinks we’re sitting in a right-wing government is mistaken.”
Bennett reportedly added, using Netanyahu’s nickname: “Bibi spoke abroad about a unilateral step – and retracted his words only after I fired a bullet between his eyes.”
Political sources say Netanyahu has already phoned Bennett to reprimand him for the comment, which he reportedly said totally contradicted the facts.
According to Army Radio, Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel, a member of Habayit Hayehudi, was at the meeting and warned Bennett about his remark.
“Mind what you say,” Ariel reportedly said, and Bennett replied: “Don’t misunderstand, it’s a metaphor, and of course if you leak it there won’t be such meetings anymore.”
Bennett’s office replied: “There is no question that this was a poor metaphor for a dangerous idea, and Minister Bennett will continue to fight any idea for a unilateral withdrawal until it is permanently removed from the agenda.”
On Sunday, Netanyahu assured Bennett he would not expand the government at Habayit Hayehudi’s expense — thought to mean that he would not form a unity government with Isaac Herzog’s Zionist Union, the main opposition party.
Both Zionist Union MK Eitan Broshi and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, the leader of the centrist Kulanu party, have said they would like to see such a government.
As a senior Likud official put it Monday, “Bennett rightly understood that Netanyahu doesn’t intend to oust Habayit Hayehudi from the coalition and can’t let himself have Naftali Bennett and Avigdor Lieberman outflank him on the right.”
According to the official, “This has to come to an end. If you’re inside the government, behave in a statesmanlike manner. Don’t humiliate Netanyahu. The issue is on the verge of boiling over.”
Earlier this month, Bennett blasted Netanyahu over his alleged assertion that unilateral steps by Israel in the West Bank were possible under certain circumstances.
“Ceding territory to Arabs unilaterally is a heavy mistake, always,” Bennett said. “Talking about this amid a terror wave conveys a counterproductive message. The enemy must be punished for terror, not rewarded for murdering Jews.
“There’s no doubt that a unilateral step must be taken: applying Israeli sovereignty on Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria,” he added, referring to the West Bank.