Bennett's Right-wing Party: We Will Not Join 'Leftist' Netanyahu Government

'We are preparing for the day after Netanyahu,' says party, who will join Lapid, Arab parties, Lieberman and left-wing Meretz on the opposition benches

Chaim Levinson
Hagar Shezaf
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Bennett and the senior members of Yamina, Bezalel Smotrich, Ayelet Shaked and Rafi Peretz at the eve of Israel's third election in a year, March 3, 2020
Chaim Levinson
Hagar Shezaf

The right-wing Yamina alliance, headed by Naftali Bennett, announced on Sunday it was heading to the opposition and will not join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government.

"Due to the make-up of the government and its likely policy as a left-wing government headed by Netanyahu, and in light of the prime minister's outright disdain towards Yamina and its voters, [we] have decided to serve the public from the opposition."

Last week, as the Knesset was amending basic laws to allow the coalition deal between Likud and Kahol Lavan, Netanyahu and Benny Gantz issued a joint statment that they will swear in the new government on Wednesday.

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In its statement, the party added that "Yamina will prepare for the day after Netanyahu, in a year and a half."

It said it will act as a right-wing party "which would not sell out the justice system to the left for personal survival; a right that will not grovel before Hamas and [Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas; a right that is truly committed to developing and legalizing settlements."

Likud said in response that "if Yamina would get another portfolio, that would make this a right-wing government in their eyes?"

According to Likud, "this is the first government in the history of the country that will apply sovereignty on Judea and Samaria, and it is regrettable that Yamina will not be a part of that only because internal struggles within it concerning portfolios."

David Elhayani, head of the umbrella settlement body Yesha Council, called upon Netanyahu and Yamina's leadership "to make every effort in the remaining days before the government is formed to incorporate Yamina in it."

"Unfortunately, the danger of a Palestinian state is not off the table, and so we cannot imagine a government at such a time that does not include Yamina," Elhayani said.

After some outlets claimed that the Yamina statement was published unbeknownst to Shaked, the former justice minister tweeted that "Contrary to what was claimed, the statement from Yamina reflected my opinion and was issued with my consent. The Likud proposal is degrading and void, it amounts to the destruction of the right-wing bloc. Also, any attempts at splitting [the slate] will fail. Yamina is one faction and will remain as such."

Tensions between Netanyahu and Bennett – who acted as the former's chief of staff for two years when he was opposition leader in 2006 –  crested new heights when Bennett threatened in November 2018 along with close ally and former Netanyahu staffer Shaked to resign from the government. 

Bennett, at the time the education minister and leader of the far-right Habayit Hayehudi party, issued an ultimatum for Netanyahu, saying that his party would quit if he's not appointed defense minister. 

"Something bad is happening on the inside, including during the last decade in Netanyahu's governments - the State of Israel stopped winning," Bennett said at the time, before quickly walking back on his threat to leave the coalition.

Netanyahu eventually fired both Bennett and Shaked from the government in June 2019.

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