Naftali Bennett
Naftali Bennett Israel news photo: Flash 90

For the first time since they entered the Coalition as partners in a political pact, Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett has issued direct public criticism of Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid, albeit without naming names.

In an interview with Yediot Aharonot, Bennett detailed a list of essential differences between his economic and social philosophy and that of Lapid. He also discusses Lapid's approach to the hareidi populace, and to diplomatic negotiations.

The Coalition's discourse with hareidim has been confrontational and lacking in understanding, he explained. This discourse, he added, "was led by various elements in the Coalition, and we did not do enough to prevent this. We created the wrong atmosphere. The idea is to draw them in, not to confront them."

There was a willingness to enlist to the IDF in the hareidi public, Bennett said, and this readiness should not have been trampled in the harsh and confrontational discourse that has typified the last few months.

"My approach in this whole subject is that it is much more important that [the hareidim] work than that they serve [in the military]," he explained, and added that this is why he hopes that the Perry Committee's recommendations to apply criminal sanctions against hareidim who do not enlist will be scrapped.

Bennett also criticized Lapid for speaking against the child allowances that encourage people to have more children. Encouraging fecundity is a Jewish and Zionist act, he said, which deserves to be strengthened.

Bennett said that there is no chance that 400,000 Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria will be uprooted from their homes, and this idea should be "removed from the lexicon." He reiterated his plan for applying Israeli sovereignty to the C Areas in Judea and Samaria, which are under Israeli civilian and military rule anyway.

The Lapid-Bennett pact was formed immediately after the elections early this year, and involved a mutual commitment by each of the two young leaders, both rookie MKs, not to enter the Coalition without the other partner. Recently, however, Lapid has boasted in his Facebook page and elsewhere about cutting government child allowances, slashing yeshiva budgets and toughening up on the matter of hareidi enlistment to the IDF. Assertions such as these put pressure on Bennett to respond, or be blamed by many religious Zionists of cooperating with a person who harbors ill will toward the Torah world.