In a dramatic announcement Monday morning, Education Minister Naftali Bennett reneged on a promise to pull his Jewish Home party out of the government and force new elections if he is not made defense minister, keeping the coalition alive with a razor-thin majority.
Despite heaping withering criticism on the government’s defense policies, Bennett said he will back Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has now also taken on the position of defense minister, in an effort to improve Israel’s “deep security crisis.”
Speaking at a press conference at the Knesset, Bennett said he had decided to “stand by the prime minister’s side,” and not act on his ultimatum to leave the government.
Citing what he described as a series of failures, Bennett said that “the ship of Israel’s security has sailed in the wrong direction.”
“Israel has stopped winning” since the Second Lebanon War in 2006, he complained, speaking alongside his party number two, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. “I’ve seen it. I’ve seen the confusion, the chaos, the lack of determination, the lack of spirit.”
Jewish Home leader said he believed that Netanyahu would be able to “change direction” with him by his side.
Yet, despite the criticism, th“We think that there is no answer to terror, to rockets and mortars, but there is an answer — we can get back to winning,” he said.
The announcement came after Netanyahu urged his partners on Sunday night to stay the course in the current government because Israel is in “one of our most complex periods in terms of security.”
Touting his military experience in the Sayeret Matkal elite operations unit and his “years of having ordered many military operations” as prime minister, Netanyahu said that he “knows when to act and what to do” in moments of crisis.
Bennett said that “if the prime minister is true to his words, and I want to believe that he will be, then we will stand by his side.”
According to Bennett, the Jewish Home had succeeded in preventing a slew of “misguided security decisions” in the past, such as the release of further terrorists after more than 1,000 were freed as part of a 2011 deal to secure the release of Israeli solider Gilad Shalit.
“We have proved ourselves through actions. We can change the direction,” he said.
Immediately before Bennett’s announcement, Netanyahu addressed the Knesset Defense and Foreign Affairs committee, saying that Israel was “ready for all security challenges.”
Called to the committee last week following a much-maligned ceasefire deal reached with Hamas after a two-day rocket barrage from the Gaza Strip, Netanyahu was set to address committee members in a closed-door session but took the opportunity to make brief public comments first.
Committee chair Avi Dichter said it was the first time the the high-level Knesset body would hear a briefing from the prime minister, defense minister and foreign minister “at the same time” — three positions all now held by Netanyahu, who took up the defense portfolio after Avigdor Liberman resigned the post in protest of the ceasefire.
The prime minister opened his public comments by repeating the key sentiments from his Sunday night speech calling on coalition members not to bring down the government.
“As I said yesterday, we are still in a military campaign. During this sensitive security time, it is irresponsible to bring down the government,” he said. “Even if people try, we will continue to work for Israel’s security.”
The Kulanu party’s Knesset faction chair, MK Roy Folkman, said elections were likely regardless of Bennett’s announcement.
“The coalition hasn’t been functioning properly for several weeks. We will go to elections even if Bennett and Ayelet Shaked don’t resign,” he told Army Radio Monday morning.
He called Netanyahu’s Sunday evening speech denouncing those who threatened to resign “the beginning of the election campaign.”
The political crisis began Wednesday with the resignation of Liberman over his criticism of the government’s handling of the violence emanating from Gaza. The withdrawal of Liberman’s five-seat Yisrael Beytenu faction reduced the governing coalition to the slimmest 61-seat majority.
Immediately after the resignation, Bennett demanded the defense portfolio in Liberman’s stead, warning that without it he would withdraw his own eight-seat faction and ensure the toppling of the coalition and new elections.
On Sunday night, Netanyahu delivered a stinging critique of both party leaders. “We are in the middle of a military campaign, and you don’t abandon a campaign to play politics,” Netanyahu said. “The security of the country is above politics and personal considerations.”
Jewish Home spokespeople were unimpressed by Netanyahu’s speech, carried live on prime-time national televised news at 8 p.m.
“This is a government that calls itself right-wing but acts left,” the party said in a statement responding to the prime minister’s comments. “If Bennett is not given the job of rehabilitating Israel’s security, we must go to elections immediately. The public is tired of voting right but getting left.”
Bennett admitted on Monday that his about-face would likely “cost me a political price,” but, he added, “it doesn’t matter, it’s better that we can help the prime minister lead us to victory.”
An Iranian flag flutters in front the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria, March 4, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Leonhard Foeger / File.
The acting chief of the UN nuclear watchdog policing Iran‘s nuclear deal with major powers, Cornel Feruta, will meet senior Iranian officials in Tehran on Sunday, a spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency said on Friday.
“The visit is part of ongoing interactions between the IAEA and Iran,” the spokesman said
The headquarters of the World Zionist Organization (WZO) in Tel Aviv. Photo: Screenshot.
The World Zionist Organization (WZO) on Friday opened a three-day conference in Santiago, the capital of Chile, on the topic of confronting antisemitism in Latin America.
Convened by WZO vice-chair Yaakov Hagoel, the conference will involve 150 Jewish professionals from around the region who will receive briefings from “high-level experts in the field to deal with the growing phenomenon,” the Spanish-language Jewish news outlet Diario Judio reported.
Russian immigrants (new olim) attend an event marking the 25th anniversary of the great Russian aliyah to Israel from the former Soviet Union at the Jerusalem Convention Center on Dec. 24, 2015. Photo: Hadas Parush/Flash90.
JNS.org – For most olim, moving to Israel is the realization of a dream. After years of hoping and planning, making aliyah and taking root in the Jewish state is a joyous and exultant experience. Still, the big move is not without its challenges, and many new immigrants become frustrated while attempting to navigate Israeli bureaucracy, secure a job, and find the right neighborhood to call home.
Taglit-Birthright Israel trip participants visit the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, Aug. 18, 2014. Photo: Flash90.
JNS.org – “It’s so much more.” That’s the mantra of the 54 Jewish young adults from across North America who just wrapped up 10 weeks in Israel.
Sure, they had applied to the Birthright Israel Excel program for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to intern at Israeli offices of such top global companies as Facebook, Visa, Microsoft, Ernst & Young (EY), and Barclay’s.
Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announced that the State Department will consider allowing U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem to list “Jerusalem, Israel” on their U.S. passports.
“We’re constantly evaluating the way we handle what can be listed on passports,” he told JNS in a wide-ranging interview. “It’s something that’s actively being looked at.”
The Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry responded to this in a statement published in Wafa News saying the move was “an emphasis by the administration of President Donald Trump to antagonize the Palestinian people and undermine any chance for peace on the basis of a two-state solution.”
If you’re Jewish, how afraid should you be of being a victim of a violent anti-Semitic hate crime? In the wake of the Pittsburgh and Poway synagogue shootings in the last year, many American Jews remain afraid. The specter of white-supremacist hate that fueled those and other mass shootings has become the primary focus of those tasked with fighting and monitoring anti-Semitism.
If the use of Nazi symbolism in fashion was manifested in isolated cases, there would be only slight cause for concern. But when this trend is backed or glossed over by giants such as Amazon, the biggest online sales platform in the world, we cannot remain indifferent. From home decor to clothing and accessories, the popular website is infested with products depicting Holocaust victims heading to the gas chambers and images glorifying the Third Reich.
When the Second Intifada broke out in 2000, Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin boasted that the desire of his people for death in the service of Hamas was greater than the Israelis’ desire to live. Yassin, of course, was not referring to himself; happy to send his people off to die, he himself clung to life and even believed that his advanced age and status would protect him. But nothing lasts forever, and in March 2004, he was killed in an Israeli airstrike.
Egypt’s leading authorities have reinstated a notoriously “radical” cleric and hate preacher to the pulpit (minbar), despite strong opposition.
According to Arab Weekly, “The Egyptian Ministry of Religious Endowments, which controls the mosques, gave Yasser Burhami, the deputy head of the Salafist Call, the umbrella organisation of Salafi movements, approval to deliver sermons before Friday prayers at the Wise Caliphs Mosque in Alexandria.”
This week’s Torah reading Shoftim, maps out for us, the ideal national structure, of the Jewish people in their homeland, the Land of Israel. It describes the policies that Jews should be striving to implement today: Malchut/Kingdom, Sanhedrin/Torah, Nevuah/Prophecy, and Kehunah/Temple.