(photo credit: JACK GUEZ / AFP)
Naftali Bennett lashed out at the government on Tuesday for failing to think out of the box when facing its enemies.
“We’re deadlocked mentally, not diplomatically,” Bennett said as he attacked Bayit Yehudi’s coalition partners in the government for failing to adapt the “Start-up Nation’s” business approach to the diplomatic arena.
His words were viewed as an attack on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, even though he did not mention him by name.
“I speak here as a minister in the government and a member of the cabinet who is still moved by the personal courage of the soldiers and their commanders,” Bennett said at the International Institute for Strategic Studies 9th Annual International Conference in Tel Aviv.
“I speak here as someone who entered politics from the world of hi-tech, where I saw that its agile and flexibility thinking allowed us to reinvent ourselves,” he continued.
Bennett said that, at the cabinet table, he can see the gap between the physical capacity of the soldiers and the strategic concepts that they must follow, noting that Israeli soldiers can be the best in the world, but still fail at their mission if they do not follow the right strategy.
There is not much that F-35 fighter jets can do against 50 Hamas commandos who dig tunnels under the Gaza border, he said.
“We have to ask ourselves, how is it that we bleed after each confrontation with Hamas and Hezbollah, while the head of the octopus remains immune,” Bennett asked.
Netanyahu’s associates said Bennett’s comments were “worthy of laughter” and that he was just pandering to his right-wing extremist constituency.
“Bennett listens to what Netanyahu says in meetings and than adopts his [the prime minister’s] ideas as his own,” the associates said.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon also hit back at Bennett’s comments, saying there “are those” who trade in slogans and criticisms, instead of being responsible leaders.
Responding to the remarks, Ya’alon said: “There are those who hear ideas in the cabinet rooms, claim them for themselves, and then head outside with slogans and criticisms of the government. Continuing on from the reality we experienced in Operation Protective Edge, they vote for one thing [in the cabinet] and then conduct another campaign outside. Leadership isn’t conducted through slogans. This is childish behavior, and it’s preferable that it stops. This harms longterm security for cynical gains.”
Ya’alon added that leadership means sound judgment and national responsibility “not chasing after headlines and likes.”
The defense minister also launched a veiled criticism of comments made on Monday by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, who told the conference that Hezbollah is currently the number one threat to Israel, and that the short-term risk of an Iranian nuclear weapon has decreased, though the long-term threat remains severe.
“Our chief enemy is Iran, after I heard voices here who said other things,” the defense minister said.
He added that regional chaos will ensure chronic instability for many years to come.
“If the choice is between ISIS and Iran, I prefer ISIS,” Ya’alon stated.
After the conference, Bennett traveled to the West Bank settlement of Otniel in the South Hebron Hills and paid a condolence calls to the family of Dafna Meir, 38, a mother of six, who was stabbed to death in the doorway of her home by a Palestinian terrorist on Sunday.
Bennett told her family that Dafna was a pure soul and an example of how to maximize every moment to fill the world with kindness and truth.
He also laid a cornerstone for a new building in the Otniel yeshiva for high school students and recalled how 13 years ago two Palestinian gunmen had entered the school and killed four of its students.
Bennett spoke with the students there now, telling them that the best response to terrorism is to build and increase the Israeli population in the Samaria region of the West Bank so as to extinguish the Palestinian hope of uprooting Jews from their land.