In an interview with Army Radio, Education Minister Naftali Bennett took credit for the government’s recent turn to the right. With just eight seats, his Jewish Home party had managed to redirect the government into a much clearer right-wing direction, he told Army Radio Monday.
“There are no more terrorist releases, and there are no more territorial withdrawals,” Bennett said. “Even Zionist Camp head Yitzchak Herzog has come around, and no longer believes in the viability of a Palestinian state.”
Bennett was discussing the results of a weekend poll showing that his party had jumped from 8 to 11 seats. A poll several weeks ago showed Jewish Home doing even better, receiving 12 seats if elections were held now. Those seats are apparently coming from the Likud, which falls from its current 30 seats to 24 in the new poll.
In the 2015 elections, polls showed the party led by Naftali Bennett with similar strength some time before the election – but falling dramatically in the days preceding the vote, after a desperate appeal by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to Jewish Home voters, asking them to vote for him so the Likud would be big enough to dictate the terms of entry to the government for other parties, instead of having to share power in a unity government with Zionist Camp, which the polls seemed to indicate would happen.
Political analysts have said that this was unlikely to happen again, as Jewish Home voters would likely remember the shabby treatment Bennett and Jewish Home received after the elections – with rumors spread, apparently by the Likud, that Bennett would be named Foreign Minister or Finance Minister. Bennett only received the Education portfolio after many weeks of being shut out of coalition negotiations, until he closed up deals with other parties, particularly Moshe Kachlon’s Kulanu.
That move may cost Netanyahu significant political strength the next time around, given the poor showing of Kulanu in the new polls; Kachlon’s political strength drops by almost half, from its current eleven seats to six.