Habayit Hayehudi English debate 370.
(photo credit: Yehoshua Sigala)
Current and former advisers to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu vigorously
denied charges from his former chief of staff Naftali Bennett Wednesday that
Netanyahu is interfering in the Habayit Hayehudi leadership race in an effort to
ensure his defeat.
Bennett’s associates said the prime minister received
a poll that found that under Bennett’s leadership, a combined Habayit
Hayehudi-National Union ticket would win 12 seats. They said that since then,
Netanyahu’s advisers and political allies in Likud have tried to help Bennett’s
opponent, MK Zevulun Orlev, while issuing anonymous statements to the media
“Bibi [Netanyahu] is dealing with the Habayit Hayehudi
race obsessively,” Bennett’s campaign said. “Netanyahu is working against us,
because he knows we will take seats from the Likud.”
Bennett's campaign said he had nothing personal against Netanyahu, noting that he went to the prime
minister’s residence for his father Benzion’s shiva.
advisers admitted that the prime minister and his wife Sara do not like Bennett
personally and that his tenure as chief of staff ended on bad terms. But they
said he was too busy dealing with Iran and trying to pass the next state budget
to interfere in Habayit Hayehudi.
The advisers said that if people who
work with Netanyahu have gotten involved in Habayit Hayehudi, they are doing it
for their own personal reasons. For instance, Netanyahu’s unofficial close
adviser Natan Eshel has been a close friend of Orlev’s for 40 years.
prime minister’s chief of staff Gil Shefer and his parliamentary assistant
Perach Lerner are both former aides to Orlev.
Bennett’s advisers cited as
an example of Netanyahu’s interference Orlev’s invitation to an event in
Jerusalem on religious Zionist education in which Netanyahu and Education
Minister Gideon Sa’ar spoke. But Orlev said Bennet was unaware that Orlev
himself organized that event and invited the prime minister.
to charges from Bennett’s campaign that Sa’ar was working against him, a Likud
source said Sa’ar had a personal dispute with Bennett going back several years
and he was not acting under orders from the prime minister.
source who sparred with Bennett in the past said he had a lot of enemies.
Denying statements from Bennett that he helped Netanyahu get elected prime
minister, the Likud source said Bennett had harmed the prime minister when he
worked for him.
“Bennett leaves scorched earth behind him wherever he
goes,” the Likud source said.
“People in Habayit Hayehudi are pro-Bibi,
and he’s trying to heat things up and start a fight. It’s a bad idea, and it
Bennett’s campaign responded that the Likud source should
speak publicly, “not like thieves that steal in the night and
flee.”Lahav Harkov contributed to this report