Naftali Bennett
Naftali BennettGershon Elinson/Flash 90

Jewish Home chairman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett voiced criticism Wednesday morning of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's statement a day earlier, according to which unilateral Israeli steps in Judea and Samaria were possible, under security constraints and with international agreement.

In an exclusive Arutz Sheva interview, Bennett sounded as if he had been surprised by Netanyahu's statement. He said that there has been no discussion of possible unilateral moves – generally taken to mean Israeli withdrawals – in the government or the Security-Diplomacy Cabinet.

"Of course, I completely oppose handing over any territory to the Arabs, certainly unilaterally," he emphasized.

Bennett added that statements like the one made by Netanyahu are a mistake, especially at this timing. "Talking about this at this time, is exactly the opposite of what needs to be done," he explained. "The Palestinian side needs to pay a price for the terror and certainly n not receive a prize. That is why I am nipping this at the bud from here. We rule out any move of handing over territory to the Palestinians unilaterally."

Arutz Sheva asked Bennett if the prime minister might not simply be paying lip service to certain ideas only because he is in the US and under international pressure, when in fact that he does not really mean to carry them out, and is attaching conditions to them that he knows cannot be met.

Bennett would not accept this analysis. "It is the nature of ideas that they start as small buds and then turn into a plant and a large tree. If you do not chop it down at an early stage and make clear that in no case will we allow unilaterally handing over land to Palestinians, unless we clarify that, it could grow, and that is why I am doing the thing that goes without saying and stating that we will not let it happen."

Doesn't Netanyahu himself understand that a statement like this is a mistake? Bennett responded by saying that he is not there to explain Netanyahu. "I represent the nationalist public in Israel, a sector that seeks a very strong arm against terror and a resolute stance vis-à-vis the Arab side." This sector, he said, "does not understand" the need for discussing land concessions.

Will Netanyahu summon him to a dressing-down, now that he has made these remarks critical of the prime minister? Bennett did not respond directly but repeated that he is not aware of any government decision about handing over land to Arabs.

"I represent and reflect the government's present position. As we speak, the government's basic agenda does not mention a Palestinian state and certainly not handing over land."