Bennett and Shaked Deny They Will Join With Gantz

YERUSHALAYIM -
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In recent days, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett has been accused by a number of officials – including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu himself – of secretly planning to join a government led by Benny Gantz after the March 2 elections. But that is not the case, Bennett said at an appearance in Kiryat Shemona Tuesday. Speaking at the hesder yeshivah there, Bennett said “we will not join a Gantz-led government.” The only way Yemina would be in the same government as Blue and White is if it were a wide-ranging unity government.

Yisrael Hayom quoted Bennett confidantes as saying that the defense minister is very upset at the accusations – but that he chooses not to confront the Likud and Netanyahu on the matter. “I am rightwing, period – not centrist, not half-right,” the confidantes quoted Bennett as saying in a recent meeting of Yemina loyalists. “The entire concept of Blue and White is based on the conception of MK Ofer Shelach, who influences Yair Lapid and the rest of the party. This is a union that is fated to fall apart – it cannot last.”

Bennett added that he would not join a government led by Gantz, “even if they make me defense minister. I will not be the key they are looking for to dethrone Prime Minister Netanyahu and remove him from political life. I won’t let this happen.”

Yemina’s Ayelet Shaked reiterated Bennett’s comments in an interview Wednesday. Speaking to Army Radio, Sheled said that “without question we will not join a Gantz-led government. The Likud likes it when the Religious Zionist party is small and weak. Netanyahu doesn’t like parties that push him to do things like annex areas in Yehudah and Shomron.”

Otzma Yehudit’s Itamar Ben-Gvir, who was specifically excluded from Yemina by Bennett, said that Shaked and Bennett should be judged by their actions, not their claims. “Shaked has shown that she is not the biggest supporter of Netanyahu. Honestly, I can tell you that I have heard very difficult things about the whole Netanyahu family from her,” he told Army Radio. “I know exactly what she thinks about Sarah Netanyahu, Yair Netanyahu, the whole family, and the idea of Netanyahu remaining as prime minister. Taking all that into consideration, I think the Likud’s strategy of calling out Bennett on joining a Gantz government is the correct one. That’s why we need Otzma Yehudit in the Knesset, so the right can get 61 seats and form a government. Yemina is just waiting for a chance to get away from the Likud and join with Gantz,” he added.