In a revealing interview less than twenty-fours after Naftali Bennett became the prime minister-designate, he spoke about what he expects his new job will be like, and offered a surprising change of heart about the Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas.
Bennett said on Channel 12 news: “I told my kids that their father was going to be the most hated person in the country. But I explained that I was doing it for the sake of their country.”
He and his wife Gilat have four children: ages 9, 12, 14 and 16.
The Yamina party leader has been the target of harsh criticism, including accusations that he has betrayed his right-wing constituents, since he began negotiating an alliance with Yesh Atid chairman Yair Atid a few weeks ago, when, he said it became clear to him that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud would not be able to form a government.
Bennett had some harsh criticism of his own for his antagonists, denouncing Netanyahu and Religious Zionism party head Bezalel Smotrich for leading “a machine that produces nonstop lies.”
Addressing the question of joining a coalition that includes Ra’am party leader Mansour Abbas, whom Bennett repeatedly branded as a “terror supporter” before the elections, Bennett recanted:
“Mansour Abbas isn’t a terror supporter. I met an honest man and a brave leader who is reaching out and seeking to help Israeli citizens,” he said of his meetings with him in recent days, as they tried to work out differences.
Just the same, Bennett, who has for years taken a tough line on Hamas, urging stronger responses, promised that the government would take whatever military action is necessary, despite its reliance on Ra’am. If the coalition were to fall apart after such an operation, “so be it… there’d be elections.”
Responding to Netanyahu’s and Smotrich’s allegations that his will be a left-wing government, dangerous to Israel’s security, Bennett reminded the interviewer of Netanyahu’s record of concessions:
“It wasn’t me who gave up [much of] Chevron [to the Palestinian Authority]. That was Netanyahu. It wasn’t me who released thousands of terrorists and murderers [in the 2011 Gilad Shalit prisoner deal]. That was Netanyahu. We’re establishing a government with people who think a little differently [from the political right]. That’s all.”
In any case, he pointed out, the coalition agreement with Ra’am refers only to civil matters, not security issues.
According to Channel 12 on Thursday night, Bennett does not plan to move to the Prime Minister’s Residence in Yerushalayim, but will continue residing with his family in Ra’anana. The PM’s official home on Balfour Street will be the official address for meals, visits and meetings with officials and foreign leaders.
Their home in Ra’anana will be completely secured by the Shin Bet Personal Security Unit.