(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The weak link in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is Bayit Yehudi head Naftali Bennett, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, Netanyahu’s closest political ally, said over the weekend in an interview with the website Al-Monitor.
Levin conducted the coalition talks on widening the coalition. He expressed hope that the government could still be further expanded by adding the Zionist Union, but expressed caution about how long Bennett was willing to stay.
“We have to distinguish between Bennett and the other members of his party, who have no interest in leaving the coalition,” Levin said. “Bennett, however, is a different story. He feels deeply that he has been personally discriminated against in favor of [Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor] Liberman, who got the defense portfolio. It looks like they have reached the conclusion that they will have to go into the next elections from the opposition.”
Levin said he knew for a fact that Bennett attributes his party’s disappointing results in the last election to the mistake of embracing Netanyahu, so the education minister believes that approaching the next elections from outside the government would benefit his party. But Levin said it would be hard for Bennett to exit the government when his close political ally, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, has her dream job.
“On one hand, they want to stay in the government for as long as possible. But on the other hand, they want to leave at the right time,” Levin said.
“This strategy works very well until it is actually time to leave. Then they will have to bring down a right-wing government, and that’s a problem for their voters. That is why Bennett is confined to this government. He realizes that his electorate will not forgive him if he causes the government to fall. That is why I don’t believe that leaving is a real option for them.”
A Bayit Yehudi official close to Bennett said in response that Levin is not a good political analyst, and that he formed his opinion without speaking to Bennett. The Bayit Yehudi official said the next election was far away and that Bennett is so satisfied with his job that he did not ask Netanyahu for a promotion even though he could have received one.
Levin said he was worried about the Supreme Court’s decision to evacuate and destroy the illegal outpost of Amona, which is supposed to take place by December.
He said he cannot picture his government carrying out the evacuation.
But, he said, barring any external factors, the government may last two or three years.