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February 5, 2014 8:17 am

Naftali Bennett Must Resign From the Coalition Now

avatar by Yoel Meltzer

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Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett. Photo: WikiCommons.

Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett. Photo: WikiCommons.

For the past several months, the head of the Jewish Home party (Habayit Hayehudi), Naftali Bennett, has been repeatedly stating that his party has its red lines regarding negotiations with the Arabs and that it will not remain in the governing coalition at all costs.

If there is any truth to what he says, and I would like to believe there is, then I would suggest for several reasons that he put his words into action and leave the coalition now.

For starters, the Jewish Home needs to differentiate itself from its predecessor, the National Religious Party (NRP) which lost favor with much of the national religious public for its hesitancy to leave the coalition prior to the 2005 Gaza disengagement. Thus, rather than waiting until such a move has basically no effect, as was the case with the NRP’s decision roughly 10 years ago, Bennett needs to take the initiative and leave now.

Secondly, Bennett and company need to understand that unfortunately they, together with several good nationalist MKs from the Likud, have no real influence on the direction that Netanyahu and Livni are dragging the country. This being the case, their continued presence in the coalition actually causes damage since it provides cover for Netanyahu.

In other words, unlike Tzipi Livni who has completely shed her nationalist past and no longer pretends to be even remotely right-wing or nationalist, and unlike Ariel Sharon prior to the disengagement, since ideologically he never truly was a right-wing nationalist leader considering his left-wing kibbutz background and his active involvement in helping to forcibly remove Jews from Yamit more than 20 years before he expelled them from Gaza, Netanyahu still tries to portray himself as a genuine right-wing nationalist leader.

For this reason, the claim that the Jewish Home party must stay in the coalition lest Isaac Herzog and his left-wing Labor Party take their place is nonsense! The best thing they can do now, considering the fact that they have no real influence from within the coalition, is to leave and force Netanyahu to expose his true colors by bringing Labor on board to help him implement the final stages of the Oslo nightmare.

In such a scenario, Netanyahu, once the “great hope” of the Right, will be hard-pressed to remain within the Likud as it will be nearly impossible for him to look most rank and file Likud members in the eye. Although no one knows for sure how Netanyahu would react in such a pressure-filled situation, the Jewish Home party nevertheless needs to take the initiative and create such a situation since it might be the only chance they have of stopping the current madness.

Moreover, even if Netanyahu were to bring Shas or Agudath Israel on board, either together with or in place of Labor, this should not be the concern of the Jewish Home since both of these parties would be digging their own political grave if they actually were to help Netanyahu and Livni in reaching a suicidal agreement with the Arabs.

Perhaps most importantly, by leaving now on a matter of principle, Bennett and company can finally display some real leadership, something that they have yet to do since joining the coalition one year ago.

Yoel Meltzer is a freelance writer living in Jerusalem. He can be contacted via http://yoelmeltzer.com. This article was originally published by Ynet News.

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  • Steve Klein

    Yoel, as it stands “now,” Bennett has a strong national and international voice by remaining in the coalition. It seems to me, should he bolt the Likud-dominated coalition, he will lose most, if not all of his international voice. Netanyahu could of course ask that he leave or fire him. I think an outcry on the political right would ensue. So long as Bennett does not waver (so long as he does not compromise his party’s principles), it seems to me for the moment it would be better for him to stay put. This is only my opinion from afar. I am hoping Jewish Home and like minded idealists are the future of the political right in Israel. Time will tell. God knows we need men and women with vision on the right.

  • ‘Ami Artsi

    “he put his words into action and leave the coalition now”

    I hope he won’t !

    What he says is true and if he leaves, his words would be well less heard.

    He brings a true light on israeli politics, somewhat it really needs as Netanyahu seems to forget what pride and security mean…

    • Emanuel

      I don’t know about that, he makes empty threats to leave on a regular basis. He likely won’t leave but he seems to love the spotlight so I don’t know how “truth” plays into someone who makes empty threats and loves attention as much as he does. Anybody who uses their own departure as a threat should leave that’s just begging for attention. He can’t achieve what he claims and he ends up just making people angrier and slowing everyone else’s progress. The whole tactic of “I’m going to leave if…” is childish in nature, he sounds like the Islamists.

    • Steve Klein

      Mr. Meltzer, I am not sure your history is right.

      Wikipedia says: “On 9 November 2004 after Ariel Sharon declined the NRP’s demand to hold a national referendum regarding the disengagement, Zevulun Orlev and the party resigned from the coalition and the government, vowing to pursue general elections in an effort to replace Sharon with a right-wing prime minister. After their resignation, Sharon had a minority coalition of 56 Knesset members out of 120.”

      In other words, NRP did what you are suggesting Bennett and his Jewish Home party do; bolt the coalition now. I do not think this is good advice.

      It could be that Prime Minister Netanyahu will consummate a deal with the PLO, committing Israel to retreat from Judea and Samaria. We do not know yet. It seems to me, Bennett and his party are better served staying and fighting from within and then only quitting the coalition “if or when” this prime minister bows to immoral Obama administration demands to the point it final and irrevocable. My view is Bennett should stay and fight for our principles and our land. Isn’t that what he and his party were elected to do?

      • Steve,

        Thanks for your comments. Regarding history, there was a split w/in the NRP prior to the Gaza Disengagement. Effie Eitam and Yitzchak Levy left the government early when it became clear of Sharon’s intentions while Zevulun Orlev and the other 3 or 4 NRP MKs stayed put. By the time they left in November, the expulsion from Gaza was basically a done deal. You should take a look at the timeline in the article “Israel’s unilateral disengagement plan” on wikipedia. As you can see, by the time Orlev and the other MKs left in November it was already way too late. And it’s not just me saying that. Here in Israel they took a lot of flack for remaining in the government and basically helping to keep the coalition afloat.


        • Steve Klein

          Yoel, my views on this have “evolved” over the years. I was politically active here in our local Republican party for eight years (1996-2004). After George W. Bush codified my party’s support for a Palestinian state in Israel (August 2004), I left the party for a few days but thought about it and decided to stay in the party. I thought it better to fight for our conservative principles from within.

          I wrote a letter (or letters) to the editor and I went on talk radio in September 2004 criticizing Bush’s contradictory policies visa vis Israel, all the while he claimed we were at war with “terrorism.” To make a long story short, the officers in our party successfully sought my removal. I am still fighting albeit I realize it is an uphill battle.

          I remember seeing videos of Mr. Netanyahu voting in the Knesset for, in favor of “disengagement” enabling legislation. Thus his bolting the cabinet at the last minute was not too meaningful. I do not know how NRP voted or comported themselves. Too often religious parties seem willing to compromise principles for government largess for yeshivas and other religious institutions.

          If Bennett or his colleagues do anything to further the cause of relinquishing land which this prime minister has committed himself to do, then I would agree, he needs to remove his party from the coalition. As it is, he has a strong voice and it is resonating in the media and the right. I think at this point Bennett is doing more good than he is doing harm staying in the coalition. Granted, I am not as close to the political situation as you are there in Israel. I am speaking in terms of principles I have developed over the years.

          • Hi Steve,

            It’s obviously not an easy call. There are many like myself who say the time has come for Bennett to leave while there are many others who feel he should stay.

            Unfortunately there’s not much clarity so no one knows for sure what to do (or if there is even anything that can be done).