Bennett: We won't abandon Smotrich and the haredim

Yamina leader Naftali says Blue and White needs to accept that 'it also did not win,' promises to remain loyal to agreement with haredim.

Shimon Cohen,

Naftali Bennett
Naftali Bennett
Flash 90

MK Naftali Bennett, a Yamina party leader, spoke to Arutz Sheva about the Blue and White party's attempt to break up the right-religious bloc and reject both the haredi parties and politicians such as Yamina's Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich.

The bloc, led by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, was formed immediately after the elections.

"Netanyahu wants to create a unity government, and the bloc was made to protect the natural partners - Religious Zionists and haredim - as well as to signal to [Blue and White Chairman MK Benny] Gantz that he has no chance of splitting us up, and he should understand that this is the reality," Bennett said.

"On a personal level, I can say that I hoped for a right-wing government with 61 Knesset members. Unfortunately that is not the situation, and in the current situation, circumstances require that the State of Israel form a broad government, but without ruling others out.

"I will not accept a boycott of Smotrich or the haredim. From my perspective, there are no personal boycotts. The government will have basic principles and anyone who wants to join can join, and anyone who doesn't want to join won't join, but in no way will I agree to rejecting entire communities or specific people. Just like I don't rule out people from the Blue and White party, I expect [Blue and White leader MK Yair] Lapid not to rule out people who are Religious Zionists or haredim.

"I don't rule out anyone personally. If a party's principles aim to turn the State of Israel into a 'state of all its citizens,' there's nothing to talk about, but if their principles include a Jewish and democratic state, then whoever wants to accept that and knows that the government will not take ideological steps in any direction and will simply run the country - then that's great.

"Leadership means bringing people together, not rejecting them. If Gantz wants to be a leader, he needs to learn how to unit the nation and not to divide it."

Regarding whether Gantz is capable of running the country despite his lack of experience, Bennett said: "If there is a rotation, then Netanyahu has to be first, and he will teach Gantz, help him learn, because there's a country to run. It's not a children's game. Running a country is a lot more complicated than commanding the IDF. So it's pretty clear that if there's a rotation, Netanyahu needs to be first."

"I think that Blue and White, especially Lapid, are trying to foil any broad unity government, and put the brakes on it," Bennett added. "So we hear about more and more conditions such as civil marriage and other anti-religious laws. That's not how you create unity. Lapid and Gantz need to understand that they also did not win. I'm very sorry about the deadlock, but the voters didn't give it to us. Even more than that - we had a lot of plans for the next government but because the voters did not give it to us, we won't be able to accomplish everything, but we need to deal with Gaza, the deficit, Iran, transportation, and more. In these situations the public is forcing us to create an equal unity government."

Emphasizing his commitment to his partners, Bennett said: "I am committed to this bloc and I will not abandon Smotrich or the haredim. I gave my word and we are all a single bloc."

Regarding Netanyahu's view of the bloc, Bennett said that he "hopes" Netanyahu agrees with his view. "I think that it's in his interest to protect the bloc. I will insist that Religious Zionism not be an outcast in running the country, but that we continue to be significant and dominant in our ability to have an influence."

When asked why he thinks the right-wing did not succeed in winning the elections, Bennett said: "I think that we need to open our gates a bit so that people who are not religious will also come. It's hard for secular and traditional people to vote for the party in its current makeup, and we need to think about how to expand our tent, because that is the core of Religious Zionism - to influence all of Israel, and not just to look at our own sector."