Tensions between the Jewish Home and Yesh Atid parties - both members of the ruling coalition, appear to be reaching boiling point Thursday, as Jewish Home head and Economics Minister Naftali Bennett branded Finance Minister Yair Lapid's party a "dictatoriship".
Bennett was speaking at an event at the Hagula club in Petach Tikva during which he was interviewed by journalist Yoaz Hendel.
His remarks on Yesh Atid came as Hendel asked how Jewish Home MKs vote on policy issues, and to what extent they listen to rabbinic decrees.
“The Jewish Home party is a diverse party,” Bennett replied. “There are many opinions, we aren’t a dictatorship like Yesh Atid.”
He further explained, “Yesh Atid is a party with no primaries, so obviously it’s not a democratic party. That’s not a secret. The democratic parties in Knesset today are the Likud, Labor, and the Jewish Home.”
The comments appear to be yet another sign of the strained relationship between the two parties, who had forged a pact after the last elections but have been at odds on several key issues, including the relationship of religion and state, and territorial concessions to the Palestinian Authority.
The two have also sparred on the implementation of a law which would see hareidi yeshiva students drafted into the army. Although they both agree on the principle, the Jewish Home opposes Yesh Atid's proposal to jail draft-dodgers, saying economic sanctions were preferable.
At a Tel Aviv conference earlier this month, Lapid had hinted to the strained relations between the two former allies, which a tongue-in-cheek commented in which he said he had demoted Bennett from a "brother" to a "cousin" (a reference to previous statements in which he had described him as a brother).
Individual Jewish Home and Yesh Atid party MKs have previously voiced their views that the pact between the two should end, but their respective party leaders have so far resisted the pressure to do so.
Bennett also spoke about the ongoing negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and expressed pessimism regarding the possibility of reaching an accord.
“The Palestinians don’t recognize the state of Israel. That is something fundamental, and it won’t change,” he explained.
The Palestinian Authority refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish state due to PA leaders’ desire to leave open the option for the “right of return” – the “return” to Israel of millions of Arabs descended from Arabs who left pre-state Israel during the War of Independence. A mass “return” could make Israel a majority-Arab state.
Bennett also argued that peace is more likely to come “from below” than to be created as a result of a pact between politicians.
“The ‘Tzipi Livnis’ of the world go around in an imaginary world,” he charged. “The ‘ground’ knows how to make peace one thousand times better than the ‘Beilins’ in government.”
The Hagula club is holding a series of events under the heading Minister at the Bar (Sar al Habar) in which religious-Zionist political leaders are invited for an interview and open dialog with the public.