Daily Israel Report

‘Bibi Likes Religious Parties Weak and Submissive’

Former Netanyahu aide Naftali Bennet explains why the Prime Minister would want to interfere in the Jewish Home party’s primaries.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 10/23/2012, 1:56 PM

Naftali Bennett
Naftali Bennett
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Naftali Bennet, who is running for head of the Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) party, explained Tuesday why he thinks rumors that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu interfered with the Jewish Home primaries may be true.

Netanyahu allegedly engineered an agreement between candidates MK Zevulun Orlev and Minister Daniel Hershkowitz, leaving Bennet with far more serious competition than he had previously been facing.

The Prime Minister likes religious-Zionist parties “small, weak and submissive,” Bennet said. A Jewish Home party “as small as it is today” has no influence whatsoever on decision-making, he said – and Netanyahu hopes to keep it that way.

Bennet has strongly supported a plan to unite the Jewish Home party with the Ichud Leumi (National Union), a move which pollsters say would add at least three Knesset seats to the parties’ total. Much of the additional support is expected to come from voters who might otherwise choose Likud.

“Netanyahu is uncomfortable with us taking three mandates,” Bennet said.

Bennet formerly served as Netanyahu’s aide. He said he thinks his political opponents have over-emphasized that fact. “My period of serving Binyamin Netanyahu was very good,” he said.

He discussed the issues that led to his eventual split from Netanyahu and the Likud. “During my time with the Yesha Council I led a struggle against the construction freeze in Judea and Samaria,” he recalled. “I thought the freeze was terrible policy, and I worked very hard against the Prime Minister’s actions.”

He also repeated criticism of the hareidi-religious Shas party, accusing it again of “taking over the Rabbinate.” Religious-Zionists must work to get more representation, he declared.