Netanyahu, Bennett Clash Over IDF Access to Palestinian Areas

YERUSHALAYIM -

A confrontation between Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) over the proposed withdrawal of IDF soldiers from Palestinian-controlled cities nearly ended with the latter’s removal from the Cabinet on Wednesday morning.

From the start of the Cabinet meeting, Bennett interrupted Netanyahu, asking repeatedly why the issue of IDF operations inside major Palestinian cities had not been put on the day’s agenda.

Bennett, who prior to the Cabinet meeting had received assurances from Netanyahu that the issue would be on Wednesday’s agenda, accused the prime minister of lying to him.

Netanyahu lashed out at Bennett, telling him “you don’t decide anything here, you don’t set the agenda.”

“You can resign if you want, and if you don’t, I can fire you,” Netanyahu warned.

Other ministers present tried to intervene to calm tensions, and told Bennett that it was not acceptable to speak to the prime minister disrespectully, but to no avail, and the unpleasant confrontation continued.

Notwithstanding the Netanyahu-Bennett flareup, the Cabinet did manage to approve the multi-year plan for the IDF for 2016-2020. The plan is aimed at making possible an advanced weapons refit, among other improvements.

The ministers received a briefing from army chief Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot on relations with the Palestinian Authority security forces.

Netanyahu, Eisenkot and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon all said that contrary to media reports, the IDF will continue to reserve the right to enter Area A under PA control as security needs dictate, and that no other agreement has been struck with the Palestinians.