War of Words Between Habayit Hayehudi, Likud Heats Up

Likud accuses Naftali Bennett of preserving left's hegemony in the media; Habayit Hayehud attacks Netanyahu for undermining Israel's security.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, left, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,
Moti Milrod

The tension between Habayit Hayehudi and the Likud over Israel's new broadcasting authority has escalated into a war of words between the two parties.

The Likud issued a sharp statement on Monday blaming Education Minister Naftali Bennett of "perserving [Mahmoud] Darwish's heritage" by keeping the works of the Palestinian poet in Israeli public schools, and of undermining the Likud-led government by serving the interests of Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes and the "leftist" media In return for favorable coverage.

Earlier Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came under withering criticism from Bennett's party. In a statement, Habayit Hayehudi accused the prime minister of undermining the right-wing camp and Israel's security, using the image of an armored personnel carrier.

"Netanyahu is once again shooting inside the APC, the Habayit Hayehudi statement said, "just as he fired inside the APC when he voted in favor of the withdrawal from and destruction of Gush Katif (the Israeli settlement bloc in Gaza), like when he fired inside the APC when he released the largest number of terrorists in the nation's history, when he froze [settlement] construction, when he surrendered to Hamas, when he declared the creation of Palestine at Bar-Ilan [University], and when he counts the kippot of religious reporters in media."

The Likud reply was not long in coming.

"Bennett is panicking because he knows the truth," the Likud stated. "The person who was elected with votes from the right preserves Darwish's heritage in Israeli schools and fights every which way to preserve the left's hegemony in the media."

Bennett "has long stopped being in the APC," the statement asserted. "He constantly digs tunnels under Likud rule with 'brother' [MK Yair] Lapid."

The Likud added: "Anyone who serves the interests of Noni Mozes to close Israel Hayom in order to merit another complimentary headline in Yedioth and another caress in Ynet is not concerned about a free press."

The statement by Habayit Hayehudi came after a stormy cabinet session on Sunday regarding the establishment of a new public broadcasting corporation. The cabinet approved an amendement to the Public Broadcasting Law, with several abstaining from the vote, to postpone the launch date to January 1, 2017. At that point the prime minister and finance minister will have the right to further delay the start of broadcasts to April 1.

After the meeting, a post on the Likud's Facebook page named Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) as "darlings of the left and Noni Moses who support their relentless efforts to harm Prime Minister Netanyahu and of the Likud's rule." These comments also appeared in the pro-Netanyahu daily Israel Hayom.

Habayit Hayehudi retorted that the reason for Netanyahu's attacks was his wish to expand the coalition to include Zionist Union leader Isaac "Bougie" Herzog.

Netanyahu "fires inside the APC in order to bring in Bougie [and Zionist Union lawmakers] Shaffir, Michaeli and Yossi Yonah," the statement by Habayit Hayehudi said. "Just before elections he always sucks up to the religious right community, and one minute after the elections he throws them away and mocks them. The days of [us] being pushed around are over."

Shaked expressed similar sentiments on her Twitter account, saying the "Likud is firing inside the APC. They issued 3 messages this week against Habayit Hayehudi. We stayed silent twice. We won't be silent any longer."

The infighting may soon have the Israeli government on life support, according to Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.

"This government needs to be sent on vacation," Kahlon told Army Radio. "Send them for vacation immediately before they have to be hospitalized – the entire government."

During the cabinet meeting Sunday, a debate erupted over the journalists who have been recruited to the new broadcasting corporation. Likud Minister Ofir Akunis complained about a lack of variety, enumerating the names of seven religious Zionist journalists who have been hired, to illustrate his claim that the corporation is identified with Habayit Hayehudi. That provoked a shouting match began between Akunis and Shaked.

"Stop with these lies," Shaked yelled at Akunis. "Quit whining. You guys have a newspaper." Bennett joined Shaked in confronting Akunis. "What are you complaining about all the time? You've been in power for 40 years. Quit whining."

Minister Gila Gamliel said on Monday that some of the remarks voiced by ministers during the stormy cabinet debate were "bordering on fascism." Gamliel, a member of the Likud, was referring mainly to Minister Miri Regev, who during the meeting questioned the point of establishing a new broadcasting corporation if it would not be controlled by the government.