Naftali Bennett
Naftali Bennett Israel news photo: Flash 90

62 soldiers, fighters and officers stood up on Sunday for the chairman of the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home), Naftali Bennett, who has been under attack by members of the Likud.

Bennett, who served in the elite IDF unit Sayeret Matkal, said during a television interview last Thursday that if he ever receives an order to evict Jews, he would ask his commander to release him from his position and added he would be willing to serve time in prison over this issue.

While he did not advocate refusing to obey orders, candidates from other parties and particularly from the Likud were quick to seize the opportunity to claim that he did.

"We, as fighters from elite units across the political spectrum, stand amazed over the organized attack of the Netanyahu-led Likud against our team member and our commander," the 62 supporters of Bennett wrote in a petition addressed to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu which was reported on Channel 10.

On Sunday, the Likud launched a massive ad campaign which appeared in all the country's newspapers and which claims that Bennett is dangerous to democracy, while presenting his quotes from the television interview.

The campaign followed a slew of interviews by Likud members who spoke out against Bennett. These interviews included several by Netanyahu himself, in which he hinted that he would not allow Bennett to be part of his coalition because of his remarks.

"I'm not prepared to have anyone who reveres refusal of orders in my government," Netanyahu told Channel 10 News on the weekend.

"Bennett's statement is very serious in my opinion," he added. "I think the idea of ​​refusal, even as a natural inclination, is something which is simply not acceptable. If every soldier decides that he likes or dislikes certain orders, we won't have an IDF and we won't have a state. I am not willing to accept such a thing."

Bennett spoke out against the Likud's newspaper ads on Sunday.

"This morning I opened the newspaper and I saw a series of anonymous ads that accuse me of insubordination," Bennett said during a debate in Tel Aviv. "Whoever is behind these ads must admit it."

He then turned directly to Netanyahu, saying that "this is tearing Israeli society." He called on the Prime Minister to stop attacking others from the nationalist camp.

"We're from the same camp," Bennett told Netanyahu. "We served in the same unit. Do not shoot inside your own APC."