Likud MK calls Naftali Bennett a 'mega-defector' - he stole 250,000 votes from the Right

"They're trashing all their policy positions in order to get the premiership and senior positions."

Rafael Levy ,

David Bitan
David Bitan
צילום: יונתן זינדל, פלאש 90

On Sunday, MK David Bitan (Likud) attacked Yamina party head MK Naftali Bennett, calling him a “mega defector” for his efforts to establish what he is calling a unity government, together with parties from across the political spectrum, and primarily with center-left party Yesh Atid, headed by MK Yair Lapid.

In an interview on News 12, Bitan spoke at length about the attempts to form this unity government, asserting that, “It looks like they will actually succeed. The only thing preventing them from getting there right now are the excessive demands being made by Bennett and [New Hope party head Gideon] Sa’ar, and they are both under pressure [to reach an agreement], out of fear that if they delay, they’ll lose people [because Netanyahu will persuade one or more of their members to defect, as did Amichai Chikli].”

Asked to comment on the pressures being brought to bear on Yamina MKs specifically, Bitan said, “Anyone in politics who can’t withstand the pressure shouldn’t be in politics in the first place. That’s how it works. They said what they said before the elections, and we also knew their positions on policy matters – and then they threw it all into the garbage in return for ministerial posts and the premiership.

“That’s the way things stand right now,” he said, “and it’s completely within our rights to exert pressure on them to defect – to do what the biggest defector of all did – and that’s Bennett, who took 250 thousand votes and transferred them from the Right to the Left, in return for becoming prime minister and getting other senior appointments. That’s what you call a mega defector.”

Bitan went on to explain why he believes that if Bennett and Yamina had stated their support for Netanyahu, he would, ultimately, have succeeded in establishing a right-wing government, even though the addition of Yamina’s seven MKs to the Likud, the haredi parties, and Religious Zionism, would have given the Prime Minister just 59 seats, two short of a majority.

“At the last minute, we would have managed to persuade another person [or two] to join, once they saw that we meant business. The problem was that we didn’t reach that point, because Bennett gave the impression that he wasn’t really with us. He stopped making statements that he supported us, and in addition, all along, he was negotiating with the other side. If he had been with us, we would have succeeded.”

According to Bitan, even if the Likud had appointed a different party member as leader instead of Netanyahu, it still wouldn’t have persuaded members of other parties who had pledged not to sit under Netanyahu, to come aboard.

“In any case, we’re a democratic party,” Bitan said. “We hold primaries, and the people voting for party leader knew that there was a risk that the person they voted for might be someone that other people didn’t want to work with – and indeed, that was what happened.”

Bitan was then asked if he was under any pressure to replace Netanyahu as leader, and if there were any talks quietly underway to get that process started. “No,” he replied unequivocally. “No, because we’re a party that doesn’t betray its leaders.”

But Bitan did concede that in his opinion, Netanyahu had made a number of mistakes, leading to his failure to establish a government. “One of them was not giving [Yamina MK] Ayelet Shaked a place on the Likud list,” he said. referring to the early days of Shaked's running on the Jewish Home party list. “That was what I advised the Prime Minister to do, and if he had agreed, he’d still be Prime Minister, because she was very popular at the time. And if that had happened, Bennett wouldn’t have established the New Right [the precursor to Yamina, founded by Bennett and Shaked] – he would have stayed in the Jewish Home party.”

And Netanyahu’s other mistake? “He shouldn’t have supported Smotrich,” Bitan said. “Strengthening Smotrich and his Religious Zionism party was a mistake. Voters from the center of the country and their relatives voted for Smotrich because Bibi told them they had to. In Rishon Letziyon, for instance, they got 3,000 votes.”