Netanyahu: I Didn't Promise Bennett Anything

In an interview, PM Netanyahu denies offering Bennett the Defense Ministry, blames Olmert and Lapid for housing crisis.

Elad Benari ,

Binyamin Netanyahu
Binyamin Netanyahu
Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday gave an interview to Channel 2 News in which he discussed a wide range of issues, a day after he officially launched the Likud party’s election campaign.

In the interview, Netanyahu said that his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, as well as former Finance Minister Yair Lapid were to blame for the housing crisis in Israel. He also declared that he did not promise Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett the position of Defense Minister in the next government, denying recent rumors along those lines.

"Why did the prices of homes start to rise? Because the Olmert government made an outrageous decision to stop building and planning in central Israel," said Netanyahu, who added, "We started to take care of it two years ago but had to stop because we received an atmosphere party (Lapid’s Yesh Atid -ed.) which was bigger than our party. Lapid stopped the process of closing IDF bases from areas of high demand [and moving them to the Negev] and I had to fire him and make the decision to continue.”

"I think [Lapid’s] appointment was largely forced upon us and the right thing to do is to give more power to the ruling party," he added, explaining why he thinks the public should vote for one of the bigger parties in the March election.

At the same time, the Prime Minister stressed that he does not rule out including Lapid, or any other party, in a future coalition.

"I do not rule anybody out and I do not boycott others, but I do not think he will be Finance Minister again, if the public will do what I think it needs to do in this election," said Netanyahu, who also dismissed Lapid's recent arguments that Netanyahu is corrupt.

As for Netanyahu’s rumored promise that Bennett will be the next Defense Minister, Netanyahu declared, "We have no agreement, I did not promise anything. I will decide who will be the next Minister of Defense, and I think we have an exceptional Defense Minister at the moment.”

Asked about the tensions in the relationship between Israel and the United States, Netanyahu insisted that the ties are strong.

"The American public's support for Israel's is at an all time record, and Congress strongly supports us," said Netanyahu, adding, "That does not mean there are no disagreements and a Prime Minister of Israel should not bow down every time there are issues related to our existence and our future in dispute."

As for the Palestinian Authority’s latest unilateral moves, including its application to join the International Criminal Court, Netanyahu said that his Bar Ilan speech from 2009, in which he pledged support for the two-state solution, “has not expired, but the Palestinians neutralized it.”

“Under the terms they want, at the moment, [a two-state solution] is not an option," he said. "I do not want a binational state, but the Palestinians have chosen confrontation. So come on, let's hand over the area, and close our eyes. After all, we did it in Gaza and we saw what happened - Hamas won. I do not see evicting communities in Judea and Samaria as a realistic option at the moment because there is no partner for an agreement.”

Responding to Netanyahu’s comments, the joint Labor-Hatnua campaign headquarters mocked the Prime Minister for blaming Olmert for the housing crisis.

“After 12 years as prime minister and finance minister, all that is left for Netanyahu is to blame Olmert for his failure on housing. Soon he will blame Golda Meir for the security situation and Menachem Begin for the cost of living. Leadership is not built by whining and by obsessively running away from making decisions. Netanyahu will not be given another opportunity by the public. Herzog and Livni will replace him and will lead Israel to a much better reality, doing so with leadership and not with whining.”