Likud Minister Rejects Bennett's Gaza War Warning as ‘Irresponsible’

In response, Naftali Bennett's Habayit Hayehudi party says Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz should 'get back to dealing with traffic jams.'

Education Minister Naftali Bennett ahead of the cabinet meeting, February 12, 2017.
Emil Salman

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) criticized Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the head of the Habayit Hayehudi party, on Sunday for saying that another round of fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza is just a matter of time.

“Naftali Bennett is prepared to heat up every sector facing Gaza, saying that war is unavoidable and dragging the region into war over political interests,” Katz told Army Radio. “I am saying unmistakably that any statement by a member of the security cabinet about unavoidable war in Gaza is irresponsible,” and that he viewed such remarks with gravity.

In an added swipe, Katz added: “Especially by such a security cabinet member who heads a small party.”

In a separate interview with Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet, Katz accused Bennett of seeking to “broaden his audience of supporters at the expense of national interests, and this needs to be stopped.”

Bennett made the remark that angered Katz during a speech last week in Sderot, a town on the Gaza border, in which he opined that another round of fighting in Gaza was “a question of when and not if.” Israel, he added, must achieve a clear victory in the next round rather than a standoff “to prevent another round.”

That same day Construction and Housing Minister Yoav Galant (Kulanu) told Army Radio that a new round of fighting could erupt in the spring and that Israel had to be prepared for such a possibility.

Habayit Hayehudi rejected Katz’s criticism in a statement that read: “Minister Katz is conducting a campaign to succeed [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, ... and is trying to launch the campaign by personally assaulting other cabinet ministers. He ought to get back to dealing with traffic jams on Route 1 and accidents, rather than to try to drag Habayit Hayehudi into his personal battles against Netanyahu.”