Naftali Bennett with Idit Silman
Naftali Bennett with Idit Silman Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

In one of his first public interviews on the subject of the coalition crisis occasioned by the decision of Yamina MK Idit Silman to leave the government, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett insisted that he bears no grudge against his fellow party member.

Speaking to a reporter for Galei Tzahal, Bennett said, "We went through a rather unpleasant period with Silman, but I'm not angry with her. She was subjected to verbal violence and beyond that too. They broke her spirit and she genuinely went through a very hard time and she kept me abreast of things as they happened. She underwent continual physical and mental abuse."

Bennett was less comfortable answering his interviewer's question when asked - four times - whether Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked had committed to remaining in the government to the end. Bennett repeatedly refused to respond directly, saying only that, "Elections are a disaster for the country. I'm not dealing with the issue right now - I'm focused on what's good for Israel. I'm devoting 100 percent of my time to that."

Bennett then attempted to transfer attention to the alleged missteps of his predecessor. "Our most significant enemy is Hamas," he said, "and it was Netanyahu who started off with the suitcases full of dollars. We stopped all that."

He added that, "Whenever they sent over incendiary balloons, we shoot them down. Before that, we had a policy of restraint, despite 13 thousand rockets fired at Israeli citizens in the south."

Bennett also claimed that it was Netanyahu who initiated the policy of closing off the Temple Mount to Jews during outbreaks of violence. "We are continuing with the outline that Netanyahu developed a decade ago - that is, that the Temple Mount is closed to Jews for the last 10 days of Ramadan. Last year, he closed the Mount to Jews for 19 days due to pressure from Hamas, but that's something that we are not about to do."

Referring to inflammatory comments made by the Jordanian Prime Minister seemingly encouraging Arabs to attack Israeli security forces on the Temple Mount, Bennett said, "This is shameful incitement and they are well aware that it's fake news. They're simply buckling under the pressure from the Arab street."

Bennett also reiterated his opposition to MK Itamar Ben Gvir's presence in the Old City of Jerusalem, insisting that he will not allow Ben Gvir to endanger lives or make the already hard job of Israeli security forces even harder.

Despite his initial defiance, Ben Gvir later backed down and said he would not attempt to approach Damascus Gate. He said that he would instead be establishing a temporary parliamentary office just outside the Old City walls.