Haaretz publisher Amos Shocken
Haaretz publisher Amos Shocken Flash 90

Haaretz, the most leftist and radical of Israel's major newspapers, launched a blazing broadside Monday against the head of the Bayit Yehudi religious Zionist party, Economics and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett.

The paper's political analyst, Yossi Verter, appears to be echoing Likud sources in an article that calls Bennett "devious, cynical, dangerous and uninhibited" and accused him of "hypocrisy, ingratitude and political vandalism."

The attack is a reaction to Bennett's attempt to pass a bill making terrorist prisoner releases of the kind Israel is carrying out at present illegal. The attempt failed, but it succeeded in embarrassing the Likud, whose ministers had to vote against it in spite of the fierce opposition expressed by many of the Likud party's own activists and legislators.

Likud ministers have suddenly realized that Bennett is dangerous, writes Verter. "He has not come to work alongside the Likud in the government, but to undermine the Likud with the goal of inheriting its place in the leadership of the right."

Haaretz also points out that the bill was supported by Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beyteinu, marking political cooperation between Bayit Yehudi and Lieberman's party which the paper says began recently.

Netanyahu agreed to the prisoner release so he would not have to freeze construction in Judea and Samaria or commit to a return to 1949 borders, Haaretz explained. Allegations that the looming prisoner release would be "balanced" via a swathe of building tenders in Judea and Samaria as part of an "understanding" between Israel and the PA on the one hand, and PM Netanyahu and Bayit Yehudi on the other, have been vigorously denied by both the PA and Bayit Yehudi.

"Instead of shutting up and thanking Netanyahu" for doing this, "Bennett and his friends are simply incapable of controlling themselves," the paper adds.

The style of attack in the article is particularly harsh and brings to mind warnings – usually uttered by the left wing – against incitement that could lead to violence. Haaretz's attack comes on the heals of similar swipes made against Bennett by left-wing politicians.

The Minister of Economics and Trade has already received threats against his life, the latest of which occurred in recent days and has led to the arrest of a resident of Herzliya.

Bennett responded today to the spate of attacks against him and his party, saying that he will not be cowed into silence.

“We have been witnesses over the past day to a massive attack against us,” Bennett told MKs at a meeting of his Bayit Yehudi Knesset faction Monday. “The purpose is clear. They wish to isolate us, to force us to keep quiet, to make us adopt the positions of the rest of the 'herd.'

“But we will not be forced to agree with them,” Bennett said. “We will not keep quiet. We have clear positions are clear and we are proud of them. We will oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state. We believe this is a mistake and a danger. And if we oppose such a state, it should not surprise anyone that we are against 'gestures' like releasing terrorists in order to encourage the Palestinians to talk to us,” he added.