Israeli officials respond to Bennett, Shaked resignation walk-back
Thomas COEX (AFP)
Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, both of Israel’s right-wing Jewish Home party, on Monday expressed heavy criticism of security policy under the leadership of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, though the key ministers said their party will stay in the governing coalition despite expectation of their departure.
“If the prime minister is serious in his intentions, I am saying now: We are removing all political demands and standing here to help Israel win again,” Bennett said. “It’s better that Netanyahu beat me in politics than [Hamas leader Ismail] Haniyeh beat Israel in the battlefield,” Bennett said, walking back previous threats to leave the coalition if he was not made defense minister.
With Jewish Home no longer threatening to leave, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon is the only coalition partner calling for snap elections.
“There’s no apocalypse on the way. There are enemies, but not an enemy that worries me,” Bennett said speaking to a room full of journalists at Israel’s Knesset. “Something bad is happening on the inside, including during the last decade in Netanyahu’s governments -- the State of Israel stopped winning.”
Shaked’s remarks followed: “We did not run away from responsibility,” she said, likely referring to Avigdor Liberman’s resignation from defense minister post last week.
“We will not further strengthen the political win that Liberman gave to terrorist organizations,” she added.
Bennett and Shaked spoke at 10:30am Israel time, with Bennett speaking first. Netanyahu spoke shortly before and addressed the "severe security situation" that he said requires the government remain in place.
Netanyahu on Sunday said he took on the defense portfolio after Avigdor Liberman resigned. His party, Yisrael Beiteinu, left Netanyahu’s coalition over disagreements regarding the truce reached between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The Jewish Home is a religious Zionist party while Yisrael Beiteinu represents secular right-wing nationalist views.
Israeli lawmakers began issuing responses immediately following the ministers’ announcement, though main opposition figures to the governing coalition have thus far remained silent.
“Now we know why we [Israel] lost our deterrence,” Liberman said after Bennett and Shaked spoke.
Zionist Union MK Shelly Yachimovich, who headed the Labor Party from 2011-2013, said “Bennett and Shaked’s decision to extend the life of the dying Netanyahu government is regrettable and perpetuates the control of the extreme right, which is a minority among the people, for an entire state.”
Yachimovich goes on to say that despite the fact that Netanyahu took the defense portfolio “for reasons of political propaganda and personal survival,” it is a relief that Bennett will not be in charge of Israel’s security.
Israel's military establishment, including Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and army Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot, took issue with Bennett's remark that Israeli Defense Forces are "more afraid of the military prosecutor than of Yahya Sinwar."
"The Military Advocate General, headed by Judge Advocate General Sharon Afek, is working tirelessly to provide the IDF with the legal framework necessary to exert its military might to defeat our enemy, while still following the law," Mandelblit said in a response statement.
"The military prosecutor helps Israel win," said outgoing IDF chief-of-staff Eizenkot.
Residents of communities adjacent to the Gaza border are frequent targets of rocket fire from Palestinian militants in the Strip and have routinely criticized Netanyahu and his government of neglecting them as they come under fire.
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