Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Friday issued a threat against right-wing rival Bayit Yehudi head Naftali Bennett, declaring that anyone who advocated IDF soldiers refusing orders would "not be a member of the coalition in the next government."
Netanyahu made the comments in an interview with Channel 10 in response to a direct question about Bennet's declaration Thursday night that he would ask to be exempted from orders to remove settlers from their homes were he in such a position and flirted with the possibility of order refusal.
Bennett has repeatedly stated that he intends to join a Netanyahu-led coalition. His Bayit Yehudi party has been making serious electoral gains, with the most recent poll
, commissioned by Israel Radio, finding the party would win 11 Knesset seats, many of which would come at the expense of Netanyahu's joint Likud-Beytenu list.
"These are very grave remarks," Netanyahu said. "The State of Israel's existence is founded on the IDF. Anyone who advocates refusing IDF orders will not be part of the coalition in the next government."
Netanyahu added: "There area also 'refusers' on the Left."
In his interview on Channel 2's "Mishal Cham" program, Bennett said "It is an integral part of being a soldier to refuse orders on matters of conscience." He added: "If I would receive an order to remove a Jew from his house and expel him, me personally, my conscience would not allow it. I would ask the commander for an exemption."
Prior to Netanyahu's condemnation, Bennett's remarks had already elicited wide condemnations from across the political spectrum. Vice Premier and former IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya'alon said on Friday that Bennett's words hurts both the IDF and the political Right, while leaders from Labor and The Tzipi Livni Party also criticized the remarks.
Following the Thursday interview, Bennett posted a message on his Facebook page explaining his comments. "I oppose with all my heart and soul the refusal of orders," he wrote, adding that he carried out every order he was given in his 22 years of IDF service. He also reiterated his position that "the government of Israel made a grave error supporting a Palestinian state in our land."
In a separate interview with Channel 2 aired in part on Friday, Netanyahu said he would continue to ignore the international community's condemnation of Israeli construction plans across the Green Line. "The Western Wall is not occupied territory, and I don't care what the United Nations says," Netanyahu said. "We are living in the Jewish State. The capital of the Jewish state, for 3,000 years, has been Jerusalem. I want to say it clearly."
Netanyahu also made an appeal for votes, just one month before national elections slated for January 22. "On election day, Israeli citizens will send a message, not only domestically but also to the international community," he said. "Do you know who will be paying attention to the election results? Ahmadinejad, Nasrallah, Mashaal, they'll wait for polls to close and for results to be publicized. And they'll want to know if the prime minister was strengthened or weakened."