Bennett Under Furious Fire from Right

Head of the Yamina party and putative prime minister Naftali Bennett, at the Knesset on Wednesday. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett and other right-wing members of the nascent unity government have come under intense criticism for their decision to ally themselves with the center-left bloc led by Yair Lapid.

Bennett, who is set to be prime minister first in a rotation deal with Lapid, who will serve meanwhile as foreign minister, answered the critics on Thursday:

“The core promise in these elections was to get Israel out of the chaos. I understood that if I stick to those words, that would be impossible. If everyone would stick to all their promises after these four elections, no government would have been formed. In the choice between what’s good for Israel and that, I chose what’s good for Israel,” he said in an interview with Channel 12.

Less than two months ago, Bennett signed a pledge in front of news cameras, which unequivocally ruled out an alliance with Lapid: “I won’t let Lapid become prime minister, with or without a rotation, because I’m a man of the right and for me values are important.

Seeking to fend off charges of selling out to the left, Bennett said this week that “no one will be asked to give up their ideology, but everyone will have to postpone the realization of some of their dreams. We will focus on what can be done, instead of arguing over what is impossible.”

“All Knesset members who were elected with the votes of the right must oppose this dangerous left-wing government,” Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu‏‏ tweeted.

“The left is celebrating, but this is a sad day for Israel,” tweeted Miki Zohar, a senior Likud MK and close ally of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. “Bennett, [New Hope head Gideon] Saar and [Yamina No. 2 Ayelet] Shaked should be ashamed.”

Likud party’s lawyer sent a letter to Lapid demanding that he reveal the details of the coalition agreements.

“There are eight different parties in this coalition, and as of the time of the writing of this letter, you have not published deals with any of them,” reads the letter, according to The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. The parties have conflicting views on major issues, from building in Yehuda and Shomron to the religious status quo, and thus far whatever deals have been made to keep peace in the coalition have remained secret.

The last several days have seen a series of angry demonstrations by activists opposed to the government.

At a rally outside the Ramat Gan hotel where negotiations were taking place Wednesday, protesters held up signs with a picture of Bennett and other Yamina MKs juxtaposed alongside pictures of Arab politicians Mansour Abbas and Ahmed Tibi.

On Thursday night, dozens of people gathered outside Yamina MK Nir Orbach’s home, demanding that he withdraw from the coalition. Earlier in the day, Orbach denied reports that he was thinking of doing so, and pledged his support to Bennett.

However, Kan quoted Orbach as telling his associates: “I know who [Mansour] Abbas is. I don’t want to sit with him in one government.”

Bennett was recently depicted in an Arab headdress on social media, interpreted as a threat against him, and the Knesset stepped up his security detail. After the new government was announced, he was assigned a level of protection for his position as Prime Minister-elect.

Meanwhile, New Hope MK Zeev Elkin, a Likud defector, denied reports that he is rethinking his support for the emerging “change government.”

“I see there are many who are volunteering to speak on my behalf,” Elkin tweeted. “To anyone who asks — I am part of the New Hope party and am committed to it. Anything else is spin.”

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