Economy Minister Naftali Bennett threatened Tuesday to leave the government should it accept a framework for a two-state solution that is inconsistent with the principles of his Bayit Yehudi Party.
He spoke amid a rising fear on the Right that the US might force Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to cede most of the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley, to the Palestinians.
As Israeli politicians wait for US Secretary of State John Kerry to unveil a framework document that sets out the principles of a two-state solution, they have unleashed a battery of particularly harsh rhetoric. Tempers last week flared, in particular between Netanyahu and Bennett.
On Tuesday in a public interview during the 11th Annual Jerusalem Conference, Channel 2 reporter Sivan Rahav-Meir asked Bennett about his redlines for staying in the coalition.
“If this thing is not consistent with our principles, we won’t be. And if it is consistent with our principles, we’ll be [in the coalition] and we’ll strengthen the prime minister,” Bennett said.
He said there are many questions with regard to how events will unfold after Kerry’s framework is made public.
There is the issue of whether Netanyahu would say “yes to the framework [or] no to the framework,” said Bennett.
Then, he asked, do ministers vote “yes to a cabinet decision [or] no to a cabinet decision?” He added the questions, would Netanyahu say “yes to a signature [or] no to a signature?” and “What is written on [the document]?” Only once he has the answer to all these questions, Bennett said, would he know how to proceed.
“I have no objective to be in or out,” he said. “I think we are serving Israel exceptionally well in this government. It is a good government.”
The coalition itself is a difficult one, filled with paradoxes and conflicts, but it comes together on major issues, he said.
In speaking of his relationship with his coalition partner, Yesh Atid Party head and Finance Minister Yair Lapid, Bennett said that the two have an arrangement but not a covenant.
He ducked all attempts by Rahav-Meir to comment on his tempestuous relationship with the prime minister.
Rahav-Meir prodded him: “Netanyahu and his wife did not want you in the coalition.”
Bennett responded: “This subject of the prime minister is private. I don’t intend to get into it. It doesn’t interest me.... This isn’t a soap opera, where we dissect personal relationships. I have come to work for the people of Israel. I know that the prime minister also came to work for the people of Israel.
“We have certain disagreements, but at the end of the day I know him well. He cares about the security of Israel and what is good for Israel,” said Bennett.
The Bayit Yehudi Party has played a positive role in the coalition, particularly with its focus on bringing the ultra-Orthodox community into the workplace, he said.
It has an historic role to play in re-branding the state and changing its image as a safe haven for Holocaust refugees, Bennett continued.
“The State of Israel was not created because of the Holocaust. It was created because of the Bible. Our role is to transform it into a real Jewish nation,” said Bennett.
Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel, the second ranking member of his party, was much less diplomatic in his statements about the peace process or his party’s future in the government when he took the podium at the conference sponsored the Jerusalem Municipality and Arutz 7.
He dismissed the possibility of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and said he does not believe that Kerry’s efforts would bring peace.
“In a united Jerusalem, let me say again, loudly and clearly, to our friends overseas: between the sea and the Jordan [River] there will be just one state, the State of Israel,” Ariel said. “All this talk of a twostate solution won’t succeed.”
He charged that the radical Left had resurrected an ancient anti-Semitic stereotype about money, that one “just has to hurt a Jew’s pocket and he will fold.”
Ariel took issue with Kerry’s statements over the weekend in which the secretary of state warned that if his latest round of negotiations failed, Israel’s risk of delegitimization and boycott would increase.
“External pressure is unfair and won’t bring peace. I say again to my friends from across the sea, don’t threaten us that we will be boycotted and ostracized,” Ariel said. “The Jewish people won’t give up its land. This is a strong nation. We won’t give up our land, our country, or our principles for money. This pressure won’t work.”
“Peace won’t spring from the efforts of the US secretary of state to reach an agreement. There won’t be peace. The Americans understand this, we understand this,” he said.
“We do not have a partner with whom to come to an agreement, even though Ramallah is 10 minutes away, and therefore this thing won’t be successful,” he added. “We in the Bayit Yehudi Party, under the leadership of Naftali Bennett, won’t sign any document that could be interpreted to mean that concessions would be made on the Land of Israel.”