Bennett Says His Party Remain Loyal to Government, No Elections in Offing

In interviews with Israel's main TV channels, Bennett also addressed the deteriorating security situation, cooperation with Netanyahu and the Joint List, and why he doesn't speak to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

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Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the government meeting on Sunday.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the government meeting on Sunday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett remained resolute about the state of his fraying coalition in a series of interviews with Israel's main television stations on Monday.

Speaking to Channel 13 News, Bennett said that all members of his Yamina party and the heads of all the parties in the governing coalition "are committed to the government" and that he won’t cooperate with opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud). The government will continue “showing that people from the Zionist left and the right can work together,” he added.

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The prime minister also said that he does not predict that elections are imminent. "I don't believe that we need elections now or that there will be elections now," he told Channel 12 News. The establishment of his unity government last June staved off a fifth election in over two years.

"There is a consensus in my party and in the coalition that going to the pools is a disaster. We are at a crossroads: Do we unite and overcome the problems, or do we return to paralysis? It was not an easy week," Bennett continued.

He also reiterated his claim that pressure from Netanyahu and Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich was behind Idit Silman's defection last week, which left the coalition short of a majority for the first time in 10 months.

Responding to the deteriorating security situation in the country, Bennett slammed the opposition's conduct: "Instead of providing backup, the opposition is blaming the government for murder and other shocking things. This is not the way," he said.

The way to defeat terrorism "is to refrain from tying the security services’ hands" and “go on the offensive against the sources of terror – in Jenin, Yabad, Syria and Iran,” he continued.

Because recent attacks have been lone-wolf operations, “it’s hard for intelligence to know what’s going through the head of a young man with a rifle,” Bennett added. “But here, too, we’re doing a great deal.”

The defense establishment is working to close gaps in the separation fence after “a decade of neglect,” he continued, and it’s employing a “carrot and stick” policy in the West Bank. “Anyone who doesn’t want to harm us will go to work. I prefer that workers come through in a controlled fashion rather than having all the illegals, as has happened for decades.”

The prime minister said he refuses to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas because "at this very moment, he’s inciting the next generation to terror while also paying terrorists’ salaries."

Regarding Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh’s statements urging Israeli Arabs not to serve in the security forces, Bennett said he considered Odeh's remark “a criminal offense.” Though his coalition lacks a majority, Bennett ruled out cooperating with the Joint List, which he said "isn’t a legitimate ally.”

Likud said in response that “Bennett, who broke all his promises to his voters, continued his incessant lying this evening. This week, Bennett lost his Knesset majority, so he’s spreading lies against Idit Silman, who, unlike him, remained loyal to the principles she was elected on. Bennett understands that his story is over, and it’s time for a strong government to restore peace and security.”

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