Netanyahu Threatens to Fire Bennett as Tempers Flare Over West Bank Deployment

After Bennett retorted 'do whatever you want,' Netanyahu backed down and a discussion was held about behind-the-scenes talks with the Palestinians.

Emil Salman

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to fire Education Minister Naftali Bennett during a heated dispute at Tuesday's security cabinet meeting, sources said.

“I will fire you,” Netanyahu reportedly said after a spat when Bennett protested a failure to include a discussion on Israel's contacts with the Palestinian Authority to reduce Israeli operations in the West Bank's  Area A.

Bennett reportedly retorted: "Do whatever you want. I will continue to fight for my positions about security."

Bennett insisted he had been promised that the issue would be raised at the meeting. Cabinet members Gilad Erdan, Zeev Elkin and Ayelet Shaked said they had also urged that the issue be brought up for discussion.

The sources said Bennett fumed at how the cabinet’s agenda included three other items, including the Israel Defense Forces’ multiyear plan. He wanted contacts with the PA discussed immediately.

Some ministers said they felt uncomfortable with the way Bennett spoke to Netanyahu, who backed down and held the discussion Bennett sought – after a few uncomfortable moments.

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot reviewed the contacts that were held on ending the army’s activities inside Palestinian cities but said no agreement had been reached with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said the IDF reserved the option to continue entering these cities in accordance with operational needs.

A source who witnessed the spat said that though “harsh words” had been exchanged, both sides were well aware that Bennett could not be dropped from the cabinet.

“Netanyahu knows well that ousting Bennett would turn him into dangerous opposition from the right, together with Lieberman, and would critically damage Likud’s strength in the next election,” the source said, referring to Yisrael Beiteinu chief Avigdor Lieberman.

The source added that Bennett had no interest in resigning at the moment. “The current government is the best one for him to present achievements and rebuild support for the Habayit Hayehudi party after their crash in the last election,” he said.