Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will hold a longawaited meeting with his
former chief of staff, Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett, next week amid
increasing tension between the leaders of the two right-wing parties.
press time, Bennett had not received an invitation to meet Netanyahu, hours
after the Likud released a statement saying the prime minister would hold
one-on-one talks at the beginning of next week with the leaders of Bayit Yehudi
and the haredi parties, in an effort to form a broad national-unity
Bennett is the only party leader among the 12 in the Knesset
who has not met with Netanyahu since the January 22 election. The only contact
between them was a quick phone call in which Netanyahu congratulated Bennett on
winning 12 seats; and a limp, forced handshake in the Knesset after Bennett was
sworn in. Netanyahu instead sent his No. 2 in Likud Beytenu, Avigdor Liberman,
to meet with the Bayit Yehudi leader.
Netanyahu has not met with Bennett
since 2008, when the latter quit his job, as the thenopposition leader’s chief
of staff, following repeated disputes with Netanyahu’s wife, Sara.
Bayit Yehudi chairman has made a point of treating Netanyahu with respect,
tweeting that he appreciates the tremendous weight on the prime minister’s
shoulders and wishes him success for the good of all of Israel.
Bennett’s associates have complained that Netanyahu has shown disrespect by
calling Ta’al leader Ahmed Tibi before he called Bennett, and devoting Thursday
afternoon to a meeting with Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On, who will definitely
not join the government, rather than an expected coalition partner with 12
Bayit Yehudi officials said Netanyahu was continuing to
act as if the election had not yet taken place, following a campaign in which
the Likud in general, and the prime minister, repeatedly attacked Bennett and
his Knesset slate.
Although the Likud did release a statement two weeks
ago saying that Bayit Yehudi would be included in the coalition, there are still those in Bennett’s party who
are concerned that Netanyahu will exclude him as a gesture to United States
President Barack Obama, or low-ball Bayit Yehudi with an offer Bennett cannot
In an effort to improve Bayit Yehudi’s negotiating position, the
party has been coordinating its strategy with Yair Lapid’s party. But its
officials have denied reaching understandings with Yesh Atid that both parties
would either join the coalition or go to the opposition.
with Lapid for two-and-a-half hours on Thursday at Netanyahu’s official
residence in Jerusalem. Both sides described the meeting as very good and
reported that progress was made on building the coalition.
The leaders of
the Knesset’s two largest parties discussed how to equalize the burden of IDF
service, efforts to prevent Iran’s nuclearization, and the upcoming visit to
Israel of US President Barack Obama. They reportedly also discussed portfolios,
though neither side would confirm that.
Bayit Yehudi MK Uri Ariel
revealed on Israel Radio that Yesh Atid had made serious concessions on its plan
for drafting yeshiva students, but he said much still needed to get done to
bridge the gaps on the issue among the potential coalition partners.
Lapid doesn’t compromise, he can stay in the opposition,” Shas chairman Eli
“If he doesn’t understand that the nation cannot be torn
apart, the prime minister will have to decide whether we, or they, will be in or
Following recent attacks from Shas, Bennett urged the haredi party
on Thursday to stop attacking him and instead work with him to integrate haredim
“I represent a very large public, both religious and not,
and I cannot accept, nor do I understand, the meaning of these attacks,” Bennett
wrote on his Facebook page.
He added that Bayit Yehudi had been working
“to find a way to integrate the haredim into the Israeli economy and into
service to the State of Israel, without harming the world of Torah.
been meeting with dozens of haredim... and I believe that if we remove the
conversation of hatred we could finally solve the problem,” he said.
Thursday morning, the Shas-affiliated newspaper Yom LeYom attacked Bennett in an
editorial for siding with Lapid in promoting equality of service, accusing him
of trying to destroy the world of Torah.
An official in the paper said
the harsh criticism in the editorial received the approval of the party’s
spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. The editorial said that Bennett, “the man
with the kippa the size of an eye demonstrates just how much this kippa is worth
– half a shekel.”
Following the publication of the editorial, Yishai
called Bennett to apologize for the accusations in the Shas mouthpiece, saying
the party leadership did not approve the views expressed in the
Bayit Yehudi MK Rabbi Eliahu Ben-Dahan slammed the paper,
saying “there isn’t a single word of truth” written in the
“These words constitute slander against God-fearing men, who
love Israel and the Jewish people, and who can definitely teach Shas a lesson or
two about values and about how to combine army service with Torah study,”
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Yaara Shalom contributed to this report.