Netanyahu Gave Bennett a Rare Gift. What Happens Next Is Up to Him

Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht
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Naftali Bennett at the Knesset a few weeks ago.
Naftali Bennett at the Knesset a few weeks ago.Credit: Alex Kolomoisky / AP
Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht

Yamina Chairman Naftali Bennett has received very few gifts from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Most of the time he received insults, and there have actually been a few concrete attempts to cause him harm. Defense witnesses in the Bezeq-Walla trial have described efforts to insert disparaging items on Bennett and his family into the Walla news website. But this week, Bennett received a gift from Netanyahu, rich in content and depth, of the kind that can only be given out of pure spontaneity, when one’s attention is wandering or neglectful.

There are no sentiments in politics, no niceties or emotions, certainly no pretensions of speaking the truth, keeping promises or attempting to maintain any upright moral stance.

“From the moment I entered politics I decided I wouldn’t let my feelings get hurt,” Bennett has said on several occasions, and he’s kept his word. He’s repeatedly returned to the political father figure who’s treated him with cruelty, not just because of some father figure complex – we’ll leave that to experts with the appropriate knowledge in the relevant discipline – but mainly because that’s what his voters want. They want him in a right-wing government headed by Netanyahu. Toppling Netanyahu is perceived by Bennett as a move that would prevent him from achieving his dream of leading the right-wing camp in the future.

Many people have urged Bennett to join Netanyahu’s adversaries and save the country from his mad rule. The thing is, these are people who didn’t and won’t vote for Bennett. Trying to educate a politician from another camp is nice, but definitely not effective. Bennett is finding it difficult to act against a deep-rooted right-wing sentiment and join left-wing figures such as Merav Michaeli and Nitzan Horowitz, let alone Arab politicians, who for him are beyond the pale.

But Bennett says he wants to be prime minister. With this motivation one can work. Bennett also knows the fate of innocent lambs who believed that Netanyahu would actually share the post of prime minister with them, and Bennett is smart enough to know that it will end the same way with him. Besides, maybe it’s time to state the obvious: Netanyahu does not have a government.

Thus, Bennett’s road to becoming prime minister passes exactly through the very people he’s afraid of joining. Bennett can fantasize about a rebellion in Likud – two years ago we heard that this was imminent – or about recruiting Haredim to his side instead of the Joint List or Meretz. But if he really wants to be prime minister, as he says he does, he would best wake up and start working, here on earth, with what’s available.

The attempt at a snap appointment of Ofir Akunis as justice minister and its cancellation the next day was a bizarre move on Netanyahu’s part. The move was the apotheosis of the neurotic buzz coming from Balfour Street, and has already caused migraines for most right-wing voters. Enough, begs any reasonable person, be it a leftist, a rightist, a vegan or a redhead – a bit of quiet, please. We can’t live anymore with his noise, or with his wife and son’s racket.

When a prime minister behaves like an unstable person, something that’s being revealed to his supporters and all other right-wingers, Bennett can receive the legitimization to form a government that would depose Netanyahu in the most political and democratic manner there is. Not through a supposed “party of the Justice Ministry” and not by the media, but through the legitimate votes of Israeli voters, including many on the right, who wish to extricate Israel from the insanity that’s been gripping it.

A knowledgeable source has estimated that the chances of forming a “change bloc” government are low, mainly due to Bennett’s dual dance and to the opposition of his Yamina colleague Ayelet Shaked. But Bennett received a gift this week. If he throws it away, he’ll prove for good that he doesn’t really want the job of prime minister. That he’s incapable of being prime minister as long as Netanyahu is still around.