'We'll Never Support Lapid' and Other Promises Bennett's About to Break in Coalition Talks

Ofer Aderet
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Naftali Bennett during a press conference in Jerusalem, earlier this month.
Naftali Bennett during a press conference in Jerusalem, earlier this month.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Ofer Aderet

“It’s important to fight fake news,” Naftali Bennett, chairman of the Yamina party, has declared on several occasions on his Twitter account. However, an examination of the promises he is breaking by joining Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid in a unity government shows that Bennett himself is responsible for not a little fake news. He and his No. 2, Ayelet Shaked, will need to pull back from a long list of promises they’ve made over the last few months.

On March 21, two days before the last election, Bennett solemnly announced that as long as it depended on him, Lapid would never lead the country. “I won’t let Lapid become prime minister, with or without a rotation, because I’m a man of the right and for me values are important,” he said.

In an interview with Chanel 20 television he repeated that promise: “Never, and under no circumstances, will I ever lend a hand to the establishment of a government led by Yair Lapid, not in a rotation or any other way, for the simple reason that I’m a man of the right and he’s a leftist, and I don’t act against my values.” Afterwards, Bennett signed on a live broadcast a declaration promising exactly that. In a Twitter post he repeated, “Lapid won’t be prime minister.”

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In an interview on the TV program “Ophira and Berkowitz” on election eve, Bennett made a different kind of promise. “I won’t be a prime minister with 10 mandates. That’s not democratic,” he declared. In fact, his party captured only seven Knesset seats, and lawmaker Amichai Chikli’s opposition to joining a government with Lapid effectively cuts that number to six.

In March, Bennett attacked Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu for attempting to form a government with the support of the United Arab List. “You must commit to not forming a government with the votes of Mansour Abbas of the Islamic Movement,” Bennett demanded. In a March 16 announcement, Bennett wrote: “The UAL is a sister movement of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. It’s an extremist and anti-Zionist faction that has no place at all in Israel’s Knesset.”

To his party, Bennett vowed back then: “Yamina will never lend a hand to establishing a government reliant on UAL – not with its support or by its abstaining, or in any way whatsoever. The whitewashing of these terrorist supporters by Netanyahu and his agent [Religious Zionism lawmaker] Itamar Ben-Gvir is shameful. Rightists must be the first ones to put a stop to it.”

For her part, Shaked vowed not to sit in a government together with lawmaker Ibtisam Mara’ana of the Labor Party because of controversial statements she had made in the past. Last February, Shaked was asked in a radio interview if she would sit with Mara’ana, and her response was, “The answer is no.”

In March, she promised as well that the party would not sit in a government with Meretz, several days after Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz expressed support for a decision by the International Criminal Court in The Hague to open an investigation against Israel on suspicions of war crimes. “We won’t be with them. Anyone who talks like that won’t be with us in any coalition,” Shaked told Channel 13 News in an interview.

On Monday, when Yamina’s No. 3, lawmaker Matan Kahana, was asked on army radio about the broken promises, his answer was, “If the price is that we haven’t lived up to all our promises, then this is the price we will pay.”

As Kahana, who is expected to be named religious services minister in the Bennett-Lapid government, explained it, “We said quite clearly that we would act as the people of Israel’s insurance policy against a fifth election. This government is a unity government – there will be people from the right, the center, the left.”

He claimed that Yamina had done everything in its power to bring about a government of the right, “but it seemed sometimes that we were the only ones making the effort. It simply didn’t succeed.”

Kahana added that Israel needed to form a government “because the other option would have destroyed the State of Israel. We’ve seen that there wasn’t a functioning government. We saw how the police struggled to maintain order amid the bloody events occurring inside the State of Israel. We don’t have the luxury of holding another election.”

Asked about the unity government’s reliance on UAL’s support, Kahana said that “no one is happy about this, but the person who prepared the groundwork for this was Netanyahu. And what Netanyahu did was done behind the scenes – we’re doing out in the open. They have a completely different agenda than ours, but I do see an opportunity here for cooperation with a party that aspires to civic integration in the State of Israel.”

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