Bennett Quits Politics, Leaves Door Open for Comeback

Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett at a graduation ceremony for soldiers who have completed the IAF Flight Course, at the Hatzerim Air Base in the Negev desert, June 23, 2022. (Photo by Flash90)

YERUSHALAYIM – Outgoing Israeli PM Naftali Bennett announced to the nation on Wednesday night that he will not run for office in the upcoming election in the fall.

In brief remarks from a Knesset meeting room, Bennett declared: “I don’t intend to compete in the coming elections, but I will remain a loyal soldier in the service of this country.”

“The state of Israel is the love of my life, along with my family. To serve the state is my calling,” which seemed to indicate that eventually he will return to political life.

Bennett again listed his government’s accomplishments, including a year of quiet in the Gaza periphery, economic recovery after the pandemic, among them.

He also said that “Soon there will be additional important news in fields that relate to our future,” though he did not explain.

The outgoing PM once again defended his coalition as an attempt at national unity, though acknowledging that “it cannot be that half the country feels itself in mourning when the other half runs the country. Both halves [of the political spectrum] need together to build a large and good government.”

Earlier in the day, he informed his Yamina party members of his intention not to run in the next elections and to leave politics.

However, he will be serving as Alternate Prime Minister after Yair Lapid takes over as interim Prime Minister, his office said.

Bennet confirmed media reports that Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked will take over the reins of Bennett’s Yamina party once he steps down.

Shaked said that “his departure is a great loss for the state of Israel,” according to Ynet.

United Torah Judaism chairman MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni said: “It emerges that Hakadosh Baruch Hu runs the world. It is not possible to lie to and deceive an entire country, his party has died. The entire past year there were criticisms of us for our harsh statements against him and his evil government. It turns out that we were right in every word. Everyone abandoned him, he was left alone, and now he leaves in shame.”

Shas chairman Rabbi Aryeh Deri responded to the news in a similar vein, on Twitter: “The first prime minister wearing a kippah deceived the traditional right wing and established a government that was the most harmful ever to the Jewish character of the state and to the weaker sectors of the population.

“He who spoke boastfully about unity caused a severe division against half the people, and called them names. His departure from political life after a year is a resounding rebuke to his failed “experiment.”

President Isaac Herzog tweeted that he had spoken with Bennett and “thanked him for the close cooperation between us for the state of Israel and its security, and for that which he worked with the good of the people before his eyes. I wish him success as he continues in his path.”

Deputy Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana was said to be considering switching to Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party, Channel 12 reported.

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