Broken promise
Netanyahu Promised Bennett Defense Ministry

Explosive report claims Netanyahu promised coveted position in return for support for early elections - then promptly reneged on his pledge.

Ido Ben Porat ,

Broken promise: Netanyahu and Bennett
Broken promise: Netanyahu and Bennett
Miriam Alster/Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu promised Jewish Home party head Naftali Bennett the highly-coveted position of defense minister several months prior to the elections - and then promptly broke that promise.

A Channel Two report has exposed how Netanyahu approached Bennett in November of last year and asked him to support a decision to fire Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Hatnua head Tzipi Livni from the coalition. After Yisrael Beytenu party head, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, opposed replacing Lapid and Livni with the haredi parties, Netanyahu turned to Bennett to garner his support for dismissing the two minister anyway and usher in early elections.

In return for his support Netanyahu guaranteed Bennett he would be defense minister if Netanyahu won the elections and headed the next government. According to the report, the PM even explicitly added an equally attractive caveat to the offer, saying: "I reserve myself the right to ask you to take the Foreign Ministry."

Bennett pledged his support, and Netanyahu fired Livni and Lapid at the start of December - calling early elections, which he did indeed win.

However, after vowing throughout the campaign that the Jewish Home was the "natural partner" of the Likud and would be first in line to join his government, it was revealed last month that Netanyahu had gone back on his word and was refusing to grant Bennett either the defense or foreign ministries.

When officials close to Bennett challenged Netanyahu directly about his guarantee, he responded simply: "It was force majeure" - likely referring to Likud's unexpected landslide victory, largely at the cost of Jewish Home party votes.

Since then, three weeks on, Netanyahu and Bennett have not met, and contacts between the two have broken down completely.

It will be recalled that during the last week of the election campaign, with his rivals in the Zionist Union faction leading the Likud party by a significant margin, Binyamin Netanyahu embarked on a concerted campaign to woo nationalist voters - and specifically religious Zionists - away from other right-wing parties, which in practice meant shaving votes from the Jewish Home.

Netanyahu warned that if right-wing voters did not give him a lead over the Zionist Union Israel would see a left-wing government, and both Likud and Jewish Home would be left in the opposition. In contrast, he pledged, if the Likud headed the next government it would immediately guarantee a spot for the Jewish Home party.

As the prime minister's PR blitz began to take effect, Bennett and other Jewish Home party officials issued their own counter-plea, urging voters not to jump ship and warning a weakened Jewish Home could be shunted aside by Netanyahu regardless of his promises.

While many Jewish Home party voters did heed that message, at least a third of them did not - and the party's number of seats dropped from 12 to 8 as a result.