Daily Israel Report

Bennett Apologizes to Netanyahu, But Maintains Stance

Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett apologizes over any offense to PM, but maintains opposition to abandoning Jews to PA rule.
By Tova Dvorin and Ari Soffer
First Publish: 1/29/2014, 8:02 PM

Jewish Home Chairman and Economics Minister Naftali Bennett issued a public apology to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Wednesday, amid rumors that Netanyahu had threatened to boot Jewish Home from the government. 

"In recent days there has been a lot of discussion about the idea of the Palestinian Authority (PA) retaining sovereignty over Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, and certain people from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) have tried to turn an existential conversation into personal attacks [on the PM] that were never there," Bennett stated to the press. 

Bennett formally apologized to the Prime Minister, stating, "if the Prime Minister was hurt [by my remarks] - that was never my intention." 

The Minister stressed that he respects Netanyahu's leadership under "not-so-simple conditions." 

"I see the Prime Minister and his Cabinet and in the government and I acknowledge that he is under immense pressure," Bennett stated.

However, Bennett also stated that while he is apologizing for his remarks, he maintains the right to criticize, saying: "I support the Prime Minister like I have to and I criticize him like I have to. It is my obligation."

The apology-of-sorts resembled a similar one issued by Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, after coming under fire for branding US Secretary of State John Kerry "obsessive and messianic" in his pursuit of a political deal between Israel and the PA. After immense pressure, Ya'alon apologized for any personal offense to Kerry over his comments, but notably did not retract his views.

But the Jewish Home head noted that his criticism had succeeded in "shooting down" the idea of abandoning Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

"The idea of Palestinian sovereignty over Israeli citizens is dangerous," he reiterated. "It was my duty to make sure that this idea be struck from the agenda and so I acted - and indeed, that idea has been shot down," he stated, to enthusiastic applause. 

Reports surfaced earlier Wednesday that Netanyahu had provided Bennett with an ultimatum, threatening to dissolve the coalition government if the Jewish Home leader did not apologize over his criticism of the idea. 

Bennett's apology came shortly after a senior coalition source told Arutz Sheva that the tension between the Prime Minister and Economics Minister had been intentionally - and artificially - stoked by a senior aid to the PM, who was trying to drive a wedge between the two.

Bennett's apology may go some way to relieving the tension, but it remains to be seen if the issue will now be put to rest.