In a vehement rebuff to the Likud and others urging right-wing unity, New Right party chairman Naftali Bennett said on Wednesday that under no circumstances would he run on the same list with the extremist Otzma Yehudit.
“As the chairman of the New Right party now running for Knesset, and as a former education minister of the State of Israel, I won’t include on my slate someone who keeps a photograph in his living room of a man who murdered 29 innocent people,” Bennett said, referring to Itamar Ben-Gvir who keeps a picture of Baruch Goldstein, perpetrator of the 1994 massacre of Muslim worshipers in Chevron.
“That’s so self-evident that I’m amazed I’m being asked to explain it at all. Imagine a member of the U.S. Congress hanging a photograph in his home of someone who murdered dozens of Jews at prayer. Does that seem reasonable to you?
“I don’t care how much you pressure me. I can’t even consider this. It won’t happen. This is my final decision,” Bennett said. There were reports on Tuesday that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had threatened to fire Bennett from his position as defense minister if he didn’t join the other right-wing parties, including Otzma.
Bennett added, “Likud’s demand that I put Ben Gvir on the slate I’m leading is inappropriate. Likud friends — if you want him so much, put him on your slate!”
In response, Ben-Gvir tweeted: “I have read your words. I have explained countless times that I am against harming innocents. Given the fate of the nation of Israel and the nation of Israel is at stake, and the danger of establishing a government that will expel Jews from their homes, for the sake of unity and the victory of the right in the elections, I will remove the picture from my living room. ”
“I urge you and Minister Smotrich to show responsibility and save the right-wing government,” Ben Gvir concluded.
Bennett stressed, however, that the Goldstein photo was not the only issue, but Otzma’s whole political approach.
“There are some ideological lines. Instead of building, they are breaking. Instead of fixing, they are rioting. This is a deep contempt for the State of Israel and its institutions, disdain for IDF commanders and security forces. In their view, violence is fine…Friends, it is terrible.”