The Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party had been on the verge of launching a new campaign under the banner, “Naftali Bennett, it’s a pleasure to meet you!” Its purpose was to turn Bennett into a recognizable name, to familiarize every home in Israel with the face of the young man with the refreshing smile.

It would now be a waste of energy and money. The aim of the campaign has been achieved, thanks to one person: Binyamin Netanyahu.

There isn’t one reasonable person in the Likud who thinks the prime minister’s loud verbal assault on Bennett was a rational act. On the face of it, they may seem to be going with the flow this storm has caused. They don’t really have a choice – a certain woman is watching them and listening to them all the time. But behind closed doors, they were horrified.

Bennett went to his interview with Nissim Mishal on television last Thursday, and blurted out his response about disobeying IDF orders he considered immoral at about 11 p.m.

The next day, the prime minister (the prime minister!) invited all three local television channels, which usually have to watch him through binoculars or on YouTube, for a chain of rare (and similar) interviews with a single target: Naftali. Naftali who? Netanyahu did all this on Friday afternoon, before Shabbat.

The interviews were broadcast on the Saturday news shows. It was a dirty game, because Bennett is religiously observant and couldn’t watch them or respond to them on Shabbat. His hands were tied. Such games are played against real enemies, not potential coalition partners or someone who happens to be on the same political side.

The thing is that there were other forces involved in this story, much more powerful than in normal politics – forces without rules or red lines.

If only someone had thought for a moment before his outburst, or counted to 10 (the number of seats Bennett had been predicted to win in last week’s polls), or conducted a new survey. But no. The order that came from the supreme political power, the master (or in this case, mistress) of the Prime Minister’s Residence on Balfour Street, was to charge full steam ahead.

Now they are not just counting to 10. Now they are counting to 15 (according to a Walla survey from two days ago), or 14 (according to The Jerusalem Post/Sof Hashavua survey published Friday).

Now it is clear that Netanyahu has empowered Bennett rather than belittling him. Except for political consultant Arthur Finkelstein, who created this production failure (the same Finkelstein who said Mitt Romney would win easily), no experienced professional or polished politician in the Likud liked the idea.

The prime minister doesn’t choose to go on the offensive against every adversary; it’s a strategic weapon, one that is used on Judgment Day. It is a tool of last resort for when there is no other choice, when a positive result is guaranteed.

In order to launch an attack on Bennett, whom many Israelis barely knew existed a week ago, you could use verbal boxers like Likud MK Gilad Erdan or the respected former IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon. But no. In this case, Bennett officially took the place of the Iranian threat, assuming anyone remembers that such a threat still exists. All that’s left for him to do is enjoy himself.

This is the kind of thing no one dares to talk about, and you can’t read about it in most of the Israeli media: The decision to tackle Bennett wasn’t taken where it should have been. It was taken by the first lady in the prime minister’s home, in complete opposition to professional reason.

The energy that Mrs. (Sara) Netanyahu invests in her pathological hatred of Bennett and Ayelet Shaked (No. 3 on the Bayit Yehudi list) could power the country’s entire electricity grid.

The pursuit of the two of them has swept up the entire political system, like a tsunami. There is no logic for this scenario. It won’t help if you explain to her that it just makes them stronger.

Shaked would never have made it to the Knesset list if it had not been for the witch hunt against her. Under normal circumstances, she would still be a bright-eyed clerk in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Who would have believed that the prime minister’s well-hidden bureau chief, that young man with a kippa and a shy look, would turn into a huge demon, a terrible threat, a heavyweight rival of the one and only Binyamin Netanyahu? Nothing is left in this crazy campaign except Bibi versus Bennett. Not Shelly (Yacimovich), not Tzipi (Livni), not Yair (Lapid). Just Bennett.

And all this was the work of the prime minister himself.

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