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Likud Ministers Warn Bennett – Don't Topple Coalition

Likud officials urge Jewish Home MKs to disobey party leader, who has threatened to leave coalition over prisoner release.
By Haim Lev
First Publish: 4/16/2014, 11:21 AM

Naftali Bennett
Naftali Bennett
Flash 90

Senior Likud ministers are warning Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett not to topple the government if Binyamin Netanyahu agrees to release more terrorist murderers from Israel's jails, as the United States and Palestinian Authority are demanding.

The ministers are quoted anonymously in Israel Hayom as reminding Bennett that the Likud-led government of Yitzhak Shamir was toppled in 1992 by nationalists in protest over Israel's participation in the Madrid peace talks, and as a result, a leftist government was elected, and the Oslo accords were signed a short time later.

"We all remember the ramifications in the past, after the right wing itself toppled a right-wing government,” the ministers said. “As a result, the left wing gained power and so we got a string of diplomatic moves like Oslo, for which we are paying a heavy price to this day.”

The senior diplomats went further and called on members of the Jewish Home to disobey their party chairman. “Members of Bennett's party must not cooperate with the threats and must not lend a hand to the toppling of a right-wing government,” they were quoted as saying.

Earlier in the week, Economy Minister Bennett called upon Prime Minister Netanyahu to stop what he called the "steady deterioration" in Israel's status and shelve the proposal to release hundreds of terrorists in exchange for continued diplomatic negotiations. 

"It's time to draw a red line," Bennett said on Channel 2. "The State of Israel – even before the Netanyahu era – had been steadily deteriorating. First it freed one terrorist for one soldier, then a hundred terrorists in exchange for one soldier, and now hundreds of murderers – for what?"

He specifically criticized the possibility that terrorists who are Israeli citizens would be released as well. Bennett stressed: "We have to draw the line. I can see how, over time, we are humiliating ourselves. They are talking about releasing the murderers of three soldiers in Wadi Ara on the Night of the Pitchforks (a lethal terrorist attack on a military base in 1992). That means that when we go shopping in the supermarket in Hadera, there will be a terrorist there who murdered three soldiers in basic training with pitchforks and axes, in their sleep."

Critics warn that the release of terrorists who are Israeli citizens would send a signal to Israeli Arabs that the Palestinian Authority is looking out for them and that Israel's courts have no real authority over them. This, say the critics, could lead to a further radicalizaion of Israel's Arab citizens.