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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.