Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu hinted that he would not bring Bayit Yehudi
chairman Naftali Bennett into his coalition after the election, because the
latter supports refusing military orders.
Bennett said the Likud had
dangerously twisted his words for political gain.
“Whoever refuses orders
will not be in my government,” Netanyahu said in televised interviews on
“The idea of refusal, even as a personal attitude, is not
Reacting to statements Bennett made on Thursday, that, as an
IDF reservist, his conscience would not allow him to evacuate settlements, the
prime minister added that it is “impossible to sustain the State of Israel” if
people refuse orders, and whoever supports it will not be a
“The army is built on fulfilling orders. The minute you subvert
that, it doesn’t matter what side you’re on [Right or Left], you are collapsing
the IDF and the country,” Netanyahu said.
Following a wave of criticism
from the Likud and center- left parties, Bennett called a press conference on
Saturday night to clarify that he opposes refusing military
Bennett accused the Likud of “pouncing on my words, twisting them
and making it look like I called for people to refuse orders just for a quarter
of a seat in the next Knesset.”
“They harmed the unity of the IDF.
Thousands of young people could think that I called to refuse orders, and take a
mistaken example from me. I did not call to refuse orders. I have been serving
in the IDF for 22 years as a fighter and a commander, and I never called to
refuse orders – every intelligent [television] viewer understood that,” he
The Bayit Yehudi leader added that he spoke from his heart, and
does not apologize, because a military command to remove a Jew or an Arab from
his home is a human rights violation that would put soldiers in a moral
“I pray with all my heart that a command like this will never be
given again, but I want to say clearly: Every soldier must fulfill orders,” he
Bennett concluded his speech by saying that the fact that the Likud
is dealing with the issue of refusing orders shows that it could be planning a second
disengagement and to evacuate more settlers.
“Mr. Prime Minister – yes or
no? Do you plan to uproot Jews from their homes again?” he asked. “[Bayit
Yehudi] will be a big, significant party that will prevent a situation in which
IDF soldiers will face such inhumane dilemmas again.”
On Thursday night,
Bennett said in an interview on Channel 2 that he would ask his commander to
excuse him from evacuating settlements.
When asked if he would go to
prison rather than remove settlers from their homes, Bennett, a reserves major
who served in the Sayeret Matkal (the IDF General Reconnaissance Unit) and the
Maglan special forces units, said yes.
“I educated my soldiers that a
command with a black flag hanging over it should not be fulfilled,” he added,
referring to the concept in the IDF Ethics Code of an illegal or immoral
“To eject people from their homes is a terrible thing. I will do
everything in my power not to allow that happen.”
Several Likud cabinet
members attacked Bennett for his statements, including Education Minister Gideon
Sa’ar, who said “a public figure who serves as a personal example cannot talk
about refusing orders. That’s the difference between a statist and a non-statist
“Putting your own worldview above democratic principles is
very problematic,” Sa’ar added. “In a heterogeneous society like Israel,
following the rules of the democratic game is what keeps us
“If you don’t support a political move, then it’s a black
flag?” Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon asked on Saturday. “Whoever
makes an irresponsible statement like that cannot be part of the
Ya’alon, a former IDF chief of staff, called for Bennett to
“take back his permission, even if it was a hint, to refuse orders” if he wanted
to be in the next government.
Politicians on the Left also criticized
Bennett, with Labor chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich saying “refusing orders is
dangerous whether it comes from the Right or the Left. It is seven times more
dangerous when it is legitimized by the head of a party.”
Party Knesset candidate Maj.-Gen. (res.) Elazar Stern accused Bennett of trying
to lead the “wonderful national-religious youth” to extremism, calling it “an
illegal, non-Zionist” move.
“Extremist expressions endanger our basic
social values. Any call to refuse orders must be criticized from the Right and
the Left,” Stern said.
“Bennett revealed his true, dangerous face tonight
– he is no more than the shepherd of the hilltop youth,” Kadima chairman and
former IDF chief of staff Shaul Mofaz said. “He must be reminded that the law is
the law is the law, and whoever says he will not follow the law is not worthy of
being elected, certainly not to lead a party.”
received support from his fellow Bayit Yehudi members and those to his
“What a pile of hypocrisy and sanctimoniousness from the
Likudniks,” MK Uri Orbach (Bayit Yehudi) said on Friday. “I oppose refusing
orders, and calling to do so is an even more serious matter, but what Naftali
Bennett said was much more complex. That was his mistake, to make a
complex statement to [Channel 2 reporter] Nissim Mishal.”
that Bayit Yehudi hopes to be in the next government in order to prevent
situations in which Jews are uprooted from their homes.
“What is the
Likudniks’ stance? Will they be the ones to make a decision that will put
soldiers in this dilemma? The Likud must answer the hypothetical question – when
they come to the point of decision, will they evacuate settlements?” Orbach
Strong Israel congratulated Bennett on his statement, and said it
hopes the Bayit Yehudi leader does not change his mind following criticism from
the Likud, which revealed the latter party as one that plans to found a
Palestinian state and expel Jews from their homes.