Daily Israel Report

'Warm' Netanyahu-Bennett Talk Heralds Anti-Obama Pact?

Newly elected Jewish Home head to meet Netanyahu soon. He may become part of Netanyahu's next coalition.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 11/7/2012, 8:06 PM

Naftali Bennett
Naftali Bennett
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called Naftali Bennett on the telephone Wednesday and congratulated him for his decisive victory in the Jewish Home primaries, where Bennett was elected party chairman.

The conversation is not without geopolitical significance, as it may herald a future coalition partnership between Netanyahu and a nationalist religious-Zionist party.

The phone call was the first conversation between the two men after three years in which they did not talk. Bennett had served as Netanyahu's bureau chief, but the two parted ways in what was reportedly an acrimonious split.

Arutz Sheva has learned that the talk was a good natured one. Netanyahu told Bennett: "Mabruk [Arabic for 'congratulations' – ed.] on your victory. Your triumph reminds me of my victory in the Likud primaries in 1993."

Bennett reportedly answered that the change that the Jewish Home has undergone in electing him is an even more profound one than what happened in Likud in 1993, when Netanyahu took charge of the party.

Bennett also told Netanyahu that he would like to see him as Israel's next prime minister. "After the union between Likud and Yisrael Beytenu, it is clear that you are the next prime minister," he said. "The question is, however, whether the coalition that accompanies you will be with the nationalist camp or with Yair Lapid and Shelly Yechimovich."

Netanyahu told Bennett he would be glad to meet with him in the coming days.

Given the reported mistrust between the two men, there has been doubt as to whether Netanyahu would be willing to invite Bennett's party to his coalition after the election. Bennett's rivals in the contest for Jewish Home leadership said as much, and warned that he would lead the party into the opposition. The phone call may signal that this concern was unfounded.

If Netanyahu forms a coalition with a unified religious Zionist party, he would probably have an easier time withstanding pressure from the United States to make territorial concessions in Judea and Samaria. With Obama as president, that pressure seems almost certain to come. Bennett, a reservist IDF officer in the elite Sayeret Matkal unit, is perceived as relatively hawkish, and he has agreed with the hardline National Union on a merger between the parties.