After Liberman resigned as defense minister, Naftali Bennett thought he was capable of replacing him. The prime minister thought otherwise…and apparently, so did Bennett.
Following an agreement to a ceasefire in with Hamas, former defense minister Avigdor Liberman announced that he will be quitting the coalition. Liberman cited the government’s “weak” response to the terrorist organization Hamas and the “excuses” it made in reaching a ceasefire after nearly 500 rockets were launched at Israel in one day. Although this excuse is disingenuous (Liberman’s entire stint as defense minister can be summarized as a ‘weak response to the terrorist organization Hamas’), it was a smart political move that increased his approval rating among right wing Israelis and Russian Israelis alike. Education minister Naftali Bennett saw an opportunity to switch roles and pick up where Liberman left off. In fact, he felt so passionately about getting the job as defense minister that he even gave Bibi an ultimatum: ‘Make me defense minister or I quit the coalition.’
The campaign promise
During the Bayit Yehudi’s general election campaign back in 2105, Naftali Bennett’s campaign slogan was that he’d ‘keep the prime minister right wing’. The basic premise was that those in the Bayit Yehudi party assumed that Bibi would win and if a party like the Bayit Yehudi wasn’t sitting to his right, Netanyahu would naturally implement left leaning policies like a balloon in the wind. Therefore, Bennet and his party was needed to rein in on a devious Netanyahu.
The vast majority of right wing Israelis would probably agree that the Bayit Yehudi party has utterly failed at not only keeping Bibi right wing, but at keeping the Bayit Yehudi party right wing as well. After all, how can a government that allows five hundred rockets to land in Southern Israel in 24 hours claim to be anything resembling a right wing government? How right wing can a government be when they use the Supreme court as an excuse to uproot Jewish Israeli towns like Netiv Haavot, Amona and Tapuach West but ignore the same Supreme Court order to uproot illegal Arab villages like Khan Al Ahmar? How does a government that turns a blind eye to the torture of minors from Judea by the Shabak or the refusal to erect metal detectors on the Temple mount immediately following the assassination of two police officers justify calling themselves ‘right wing’? The answer is that they can’t and the majority of Israeli right wingers know this. This author would even argue that the current government is even softer against its enemies in wartime than past left wing governments…but I digress.
Bennett’s non-right wing priorities
Despite all of these extreme left wing policies that Bennett was party to, he never once hinted at quitting the government. But his aspirations of becoming defense minister was a different story. Bennett was ready to bring down the government if Bibi wouldn’t make him minister of Israel’s defense.
This means that becoming defense minister is more important to him than missiles on Sderot. Getting liberman’s job meant more to him than Jewish Israelis getting unjustly uprooted from their homes while illegal Arab squatters go untouched. Becoming defense minister is more crucial for Bennett and the Jewish Home party than metal detectors on the Temple Mount and prisoner releases. Bennett is willing to risk it all for a new job but not for the Israeli citizens suffering under an impotent government. A government that not only offers zero deterrent for Israel’s murderous enemies, but actually rewards them with cash transfers, free electricity, free water, free aid and excellent living conditions in their jails. Bennett was ready to risk it all for a new job, but not for the safety and justice of Israel’s tax paying citizens.
That’s why Bennett gave prime minister Netanyahu an ultimatum: ‘Make me defense minister of I quit the government’. But Bibi doesn’t trust Bennett as defense minister. In fact, Bibi has such little confidence in Bennett’s ability to serve as defense minister that he would rather go to elections than assign minister Bennett the portfolio. And so, Bibi called Bennett’s bluff. And Bennett, in pathetic fashion, implicitly agreed with Bibi’s assertion and remained in the government like a battered wife who couldn’t garner the strength to leave an abusive relationship.
The bottom line
Politically, Bennett is the biggest loser in the entire Liberman saga. He’s the one who places jobs above security and doesn’t even have the balls to follow through on an ultimatum. But the ultimate loser is the Israeli citizen. They are stuck with another year of a cowardly government who is too afraid to kill Hamas mortar men, thinks it’s a good idea to let Gaza freeload at the Israeli taxpayer’s expense and will blame the Supreme court for destroying Jewish communities in Judea while ignoring the same Supreme court who orders them to destroy Arab communities in the same region. Bennett might be a loser but it’s the Israeli people who will ultimately pay the price.