Blue and White MKs Walk Out on Bennett, Who Calls Them ‘Cowards’

YERUSHALAYIM -
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett speaks in the plenum hall of the Knesset on Monday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Knesset met Monday in a special session to discuss the situation in the Gaza border area. Although the Knesset officially dispersed after the last elections, a special recess session can be called if 25 MKs request it.

The session was held on the background of increased tensions in Gaza and Palestinian Authority-controlled areas of Yehudah and Shomron in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” peace plan. On Monday morning, IDF forces hit a Hamas outpost after Gaza terrorists the day before fired a rocket at southern Israel. The rocket set off Red Alert sirens in Sderot and Gaza border communities Sunday evening. It fell in an open area, with no damage or injuries reported. Over the weekend, there were dozens of reports of balloon clusters floating overhead. A large number exploded before landing, with several exploding while still flying over Gaza. None of the clusters fell in populated areas.

The MKs who demanded the session were from the opposition, so the first speaker at Monday’s session was Blue and White head Benny Gantz. Gantz repeated his previous condemnation of the government for failing to halt rocket and balloon terror attacks from Gaza. “You have turned the ‘Gaza envelope’ into the ‘Gaza hostage,’” Gantz addressed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, using a Hebrew idiom. “You make all sorts of promises that you can’t fulfill, while children of the south hide in fear. The Red Alert sirens force them into shelters, but they do not move you. You are bored by the plight of residents of the south. Are you the head of the rightwing bloc or are you prime minister of Israel?”

Addressing Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, Meretz head Nitzan Horowitz said that “you and Netanyahu have failed, and residents of the south are paying the price. You fear the Israeli public, you fear to tell the truth – that there is no military solution for Gaza. You fear to tell the Israeli public that the only solution is a diplomatic one. We will provide a solution based on that, not just military might. Defense ministers come and go, and the terror continues. The next government must not be afraid to tell the truth if we are to halt the spilling of blood.”

Responding on behalf of the government was Bennett – but as he rose to speak, Gantz rose to leave, and was followed by all the Blue and White MKs, including former IDF Chiefs of Staff Moshe Yaalon and Shaul Mofaz. Veering from his prepared remarks, Bennett said, “What are you running away from, you cowards? You are the ones who were unable to stop the thousands of rockets that hit Israel when you were in charge of the IDF. In my eight years in the Knesset this is the first time I have seen the head of an opposition party attack the defense minister and then run away.”

In a statement, Bennett’s Yemina party said that the walkout was “shameful. Just like they ran away from dealing with the Hamas terror tunnels during Operation Protective Edge, Gantz and Yaalon ran away from the Knesset. As usual, they are acting hypocritically – they call a special session and run away when the defense minister gets up to speak. That’s because they have no idea what to do, other than to run away. We cannot allow a party that is willing to set up a terror state in the center of Israel to run the country.”