Naftali Bennett 521.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Habayit Hayehudi leadership candidate Naftali Bennett fiercely attacked Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at an event featuring the three contenders for the
chairmanship of the party Tuesday night at the Jerusalem College of
Bennett, who served as Netanyahu’s bureau chief when he was
opposition leader, made a reference to the significant proportion of the prime
minister’s staff who happen to be religious Zionists – while there are no
knitted kippot in Netanyahu’s inner security cabinet.
“I have a message
for Netanyahu,” Bennett said. “We don’t work for you anymore. Religious
Zionists will no longer be the whipping boy of Israeli politics.”
about reports that the prime minister has interfered in the race in an effort to
harm him, Bennett said: “I think Netanyahu prefers that Habayit Hayehudi remain
a weak party that won’t give him problems. Now polls say we would take
three seats from him. The stronger we get, the more he will
Bashing his competition in the race, MK Zevulun Orlev, who
served as social welfare minister until shortly before the Gaza Strip
withdrawal, Bennett said he would not have stayed for a minute in a government
that gave land to Israel’s enemies.
Orlev blasted Bennett for lacking
political experience and for his plan to open up the party to secular Israelis.
He said there was no time to have another party leader that needs lessons in how
the Knesset works.
“We are a religious party before a nationalist party,”
Orlev said. “All our representatives need to have deep roots so our views will
be grounded in our religion and our land. Politics is not a reality show. You
I told Bennett: ‘Run for Knesset. There is plenty of
time for you to head the party later on.’” The conference was initially intended
to be a debate between the candidates, but because Orlev vowed to boycott such
an event, the candidates spoke separately.
“I am looking for debates with
other parties,” Orlev said.
“The day after the election, we have to be in
the same party. I strongly believe that parties must handle elections with
respect, and we are.”
The candidates each claimed to be winning Habayit
Hayehudi’s membership drive, which is expected to decide the November 6
election. Bennett said a new supporter was joining the party on his website
every three minutes, and he later proved it by displaying the new members and
their contact information as they were coming in.
Orlev said that his
supporters were joining at a rate of one every 10 seconds. Both Orlev and the
incumbent Habayit Hayehudi chairman, Science and Technology Minister Daniel
Herschkowitz, vowed that his membership drive would surprise the press and the
“In politics there is just as much psychological warfare as in
the army,” Herschkowitz said. “I have my doubts that any candidate will register
as many members as me.”