Minister of the Economy Naftali Bennett’s battle with labor unions over national port policies took a humorous turn on Thursday, though the unions were not amused.
Playing on the Hebrew word nemalim, which means both “ports” and “ants,” Bennett said he wanted to “exterminate” the nemalim. Although he was ostensibly referring to an infestation of ants in his home, the reference to the ports issue was picked up immediately by the Israeli public, which reacted with thousands of online expressions of support, Globes reported.
“That’s it. The ants are impossible. I came home and realized that something had to be done. They’re in the kitchen, the living room, the guest room. The whole house is filled with ants. I called in the exterminator,” Bennett wrote.
It was not Bennett’s only verbal salvo against the ports this week. On Sunday, he claimed that he had drawn up a plan for sending the IDF into the ports in the event of a wildcat strike over the government’s plan to build a new privately owned port to promote competition.
A member of a ports workers committee told Globes on Thursday, “I fear for Israel’s fate with such a minister in the government. I strongly hope that this man is not serving on the security cabinet and making decisions. The port is less important.”
Prof. Yoni Yona of the Labor party issued an angry response, asserting that Bennett was seeking to dehumanize the port workers so as to harm them economically and comparing the minister’s remark to ethnic cleansing.
Bennett’s office deflected the attack, saying, “In general, a bit of humor harms no one.”