Bennett Says Wouldn't Necessarily Recommend Netanyahu as Next Prime Minister

Former education minister fears merging with far-right political alliance will drive voters away, says 'won’t let us hold repeat election again'

Bennett and his replacement as Education Minister, Union of Right-Wing Parties' Rafi Peretz, at a ceremony at the Education Ministry in Jerusalem, June 26, 2019.
Yossi Ifergan / GPO

Hayamin Hehadash leader Naftali Bennett wouldn't commit to recommending Benjamin Netanyahu as the next prime minister following Israel's September 17 election. 

In an interview with Army Radio, Bennett said Wednesday “I’ll recommend the right-wing candidate with the greatest chances of forming a government. I won’t let us hold repeat election again.”

He added, “I’m not part of the ‘anyone but Bibi’ crowd. He was a prime minister who did many good things and is certainly a legitimate prime minister,” Bennett continued, adding that Netanyahu shouldn’t be disqualified. “But judging by the results, Netanyahu failed to form a government. I won’t let such a thing happen [again] ... Netanyahu is prime minister, and most likely he will be. But the state comes before any individual.”

Bennett, whose party failed to cross the 3.25-percent electoral threshold in April’s election, also warned that if his party were to join the Union of Right-Wing Parties, the merger may drive many voters into the arms of Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu or Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan party.

He “doesn’t rule out joining up with anyone” prior to September’s election, and vowed that, “This time, we won’t leave right-wing votes on the floor.”

Nevertheless, he added, if his party were to join the right-wing union like his former party, Habayit Hayehudi, did, “a large number of people on the secular right will be left orphaned and will go to Lieberman and Kahol Lavan.”

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Bennett said he still has not decided with whom to run in the repeat elections in September, but said the decision would be made in the next 10 days. “It’s possible that we’ll run with the Union of Right-Wing Parties, with [Moshe] Feiglin, perhaps with Likud,” he said. “We’ll do whatever will bring the right 61 seats,” referring to a Knesset majority.

He also spoke about Netanyahu’s decision to replace him as education minister with Rafi Peretz, chairman of the Union of Right-Wing Parties, just two months before the start of the school year. “I thought it was a major mistake to change ministers,” Bennett said. “Politics is just a means. There’s a state, there are 2.2 million students. This isn’t a joke.”

Peretz recently caused a media firestorm for expressing support for LGBTQ conversion therapy, a view he withdrew on Tuesday after facing strong backlash. Bennett condemned Peretz's remarks on Sunday, saying that "Israeli society is composed of many different shades, and no one needs to convert anyone else. We accept people as they are."