Bennett Heads to the Opposition With Qualms as Ally Splits From Right-wing Slate

Netanyahu 'chose a path that isn't right,' defense minister hours before new government is sworn in, with Yamina's Rafi Peretz as Jerusalem affairs minister

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Naftali Bennett and Rafi Peretz, his successor as education minister, in 2019.
Naftali Bennett and Rafi Peretz, his successor as education minister, in 2019.Credit: Emil Salman
Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

Right-wing party Yamina will not join Israel's new government, which is expected to be sworn in Thursday night, outgoing defense minister and party chairman Nafatli Bennett confirmed in a harsh Facebook post.

“We are heading to the opposition wholeheartedly, Netanyahu chose to get rid of Yamina," Bennett said on Thursday. “Our eight years in the Netanyahu government are ending today. He chose a path that is not right [wing].”

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Education Minister Rafi Peretz, leader of Habayit Hayehudi, one the parties that make up Yamina, agreed on Thursday to enter the government without his right-wing faction. Peretz split from , with which he ran in the March 2 election and will join the government as Jerusalem affairs minister.

Bennett accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of “communicating with [Yamina] only through videos and tweets in which he said things that are not true.” Netanyahu “needs a strong national moral compass at his side but he doesn’t really like it when he has one, so he always tries to weaken us, to clip our wings and disrespect us,” he added.

Likud said in response to Bennett's post: "If Bennett had gotten the Health Ministry, he would have said it's the right's dream government. But because he didn't, he decided to drag Yamina to the opposition." The harsh Likud statement ends by proclaiming "the end of the Bennett era."

Netanyahu and Bennett spoke on the phone Wednesday night but did not reach understandings on Yamina joining the government coalition. Bennett said that the Prime Minister’s Office “was not inclined to schedule a meeting between the two.”

The two supplied contradictory versions of what was said during the phone call: Netanyahu said he offered Bennett and the party the education portfolio or a senior economic portfolio of his choice – along with the Jerusalem Affairs Ministry and responsibility for the ’s settlement division, national service and the heritage portfolio.

Bennett said he was offered the Jerusalem affairs portfolio, a deputy minister with responsibility for national service and settlements, half the chairman of the Knesset Absorption Committee and another ministry for the party. On Thursday, Bennett wrote that he asked for the Health Ministry for himself, and to keep Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich in his post.

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