Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party head Naftali Bennett went head-to-head with political opponents Thursday in a heated debate over Israel’s economy. While many on the left pin blame for economic woes on Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria, Bennett said the opposite is true – without those communities, Israel’s economy would be in deep trouble.
A debate broke out when Bennett declared that the next government must make social welfare and cost of living issues its top priority. Moderator Gadi Sokenik challenged him, saying, “You’re talking about the economy, but you support investing millions in residents of Judea and Samaria.”
“There are 400,000 Israelis living in Judea and Samaria,” Bennett shot back. “They have to live somewhere. What do you want them to do, evaporate?
“Building the city of Modiin costs money, too, building Mitzpeh in the Galilee costs money,” he added. “Don’t turn your fire on residents of Judea and Samaria.”
Bennett continued, “You want to say that we need to give the territories to the enemy? Say that. But don’t pin it on the economy, and don’t say that settlers cost more.”
In fact, he added, “I guarantee you, if, G-d forbid, we leave there, Judea and Samaria – the costs would be much higher. Rent prices would rise in Israel, the economy would collapse.”
“If you want to topple Israel’s economy, expel the residents of Judea and Samaria,” he concluded.
Bennett also took a moment to discuss the ideological side of things. “Beyond the various factors, I oppose from the depths of my heart the establishment of a Palestinian state in our land,” he stated. “It would be a historic disaster. The land of Israel has been ours for 3,800 years.”
Sokenik responded, “So your beautiful economic vision stops when it comes to ideological goals?”
“I think it goes with the economic goals. It does not contradict them,” Bennett replied.