Naftali Bennett to be defense minister, join lists with Likud

The offer was brought by Netanyahu to Bennett when the two met in Netanyahu's office on Friday morning.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at the 57th Israel Prize ceremony on Israel's 71st Independence Day, 2019. (photo credit: ODED KARNI/GPO)
Education Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at the 57th Israel Prize ceremony on Israel's 71st Independence Day, 2019.
(photo credit: ODED KARNI/GPO)
New Right leader MK Naftali Bennett is expected to become Defense Minister after his position is approved by the interim cabinet and the New Right will unite with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud.
The offer was brought by Netanyahu to Bennett when the two met in Netanyahu's office on Friday morning.
Bennett accepted the offer and it will be brought up for the interim cabinet's approval on the cabinet's next session. Bennett also agreed to resign if another person is appointed to the position once a new cabinet is formed.
Bennett's New Right party is expected to form a joint list with Netanyahu's Likud and act as a single party throughout the 22nd Knesset.
During Friday's meeting, Netanyahu offered Bennett two options: one being two "minor" positions for him and former justice minister MK Ayelet Shaked, or the Defense Ministry. The decision to choose the latter was in agreement between Bennett and Shaked.
"Netanyahu offered us [three ministries]: the Agriculture [Ministry], the Diaspora [Ministry] and the Welfare [Ministry], or just the Defense [Ministry]," Shaked said on Twitter. "We jointly decided that Bennett be appointed Defense Minister until a new cabinet is formed."

"I am convinced this is for the best of the State of Israel."

Gantz's Blue and White party criticized the appointment, saying that "instead of promoting the cabinet that the people elected and wanted, Netanyahu keeps fortifying his immunity bloc and barricading himself in it." He added that "the appointment of a [placeholder] to Defense Minister is an inappropriate [decision] for the most sensitive system in the coutry, and for the State of Israel."

"As usual Netanyahu, Bennett's cynical appointment is done out of a narrow political and personal interest and not out of a broader view of what is best for the defense system and fot the State of Israel," he said. "Israel deserves a prime minister who would put Israel above everything." 

"Blue and White will keep [using its best endeavors] to form [any] government in general and a unity government in particular."
Blue and White co-leader MK Yair Lapid responded to the appointment, saying that "instead of promoting a unity government, Netanuyahu keeps fortifying his imminity bloc."
He criticized Netanyahu, adding that "the amount of times he had said that Bennett is childish and irresponsible is countless. Now he puts the system that keeps our children's lives in his hands. Because of his criminal cases, Bibi [Netanyahu] puts his narrow interest above the contry."

"The eyes of the voters are upon us. We will keep aiming to form a broad unity government that [would] work for the benefit of the public and not for that of its own."

Former prime minister Ehud Barak said on Twitter that the public "already knows why" Bennett was appointed defense minister. He claimed Netanyahu had abused his power appointing Bennet, and added that "it is not a very legal step in an interim cabinet."

"Netanyahu keeps proving over and over again how right he was when he said that a prime minister immersed to his very neck [sec.] in criminal issues cannot rule over a state," he said. "Sad and miserable."

MK Ilan Gilon, Democratic Union, also criticized the appointment, saying that "from a persona non-grata [Bennett turned into Netanyahu's] most loyal soldier, and now comes the prize, at our expance, obviously."

"Without any thought over [Bennett] being fit for office, over what is right for the state, over the consequences of appointing the representative of the Hilltop Youth to a high office," he said on Twitter. 

"Loyalty to immunity is the only requirement for getting a job in Netanyahu's regime. Looks like [he] did, after all, learn something at the terrorism workshop."

Bennett's appointment comes 13 days before the expiration of the mandate given to Blue and White leader, former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz to form a government. Earlier on Friday, Gantz accused Netanyahu's Likud of not being interested in forming a unity government.
The former chief of staff said that while his party's main goal is "establishing a broad, liberal, unity government," he is "examining other options to establish a government if negotiations with Likud do not come to fruition."
A recent poll found that in case a third parliamentary election takes place, 39% of voters would blame Netanyahu for the fact that a unity government is not formed, while only 19% would blame Gantz.
Earlier on Friday, Netanyahu gave Interior Minister MK Aryeh Deri the go-ahead on advancing a direct election between him and Gantz. The initiative was first brought up by Deri earlier this week.