Bennett refuses to explicitly endorse Netanyahu for next PM

Bennett declined to answer directly whether he would recommend Netanyahu or not.

Naftali Bennett at a ceremony at the education ministry (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Naftali Bennett at a ceremony at the education ministry
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
New Right leader Naftali Bennett declined repeatedly on Wednesday to commit to backing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form the next government and said that if his party passed electoral threshold he would not support dispersing the Knesset again.
Bennett also said that his erstwhile political ally Ayelet Shaked had not yet decided in which party to run in the coming elections, and that it was still unclear with which other right-wing party New Right itself might run.
“I will recommend the right wing candidate who at the time has the highest chances of forming a government,” Bennett told Army Radio after being asked specifically if he would recommend Netanyahu to the president to form a coalition.
Asked several times more times if he would recommend Netanyahu, Bennett repeatedly declined to answer directly.
The New Right leader said Netanyahu was however a “reasonable” choice and “not illegitimate or anything like that” but underlined that Netanyahu had failed to form a government after the last election.
“I will not allow this to happen again… if was sitting [in the Knesset] when the Knesset decided to take the country back to elections I would not have voted in favor of dispersing the Knesset,” he said, adding that he would have found a way to form a right-wing government “at any price.”
Given that the polls do not currently give the right-wing the possibility of forming a government by itself, and with Blue and White having ruled out a national unity government with a Likud headed by Netanyahu, Bennett seemed to be implicitly stating that he may back another Likud candidate to form a government, although he declined to answer that question as well.
The New Right leader said that Shaked would make a decision on who she will run with in the coming days, and that he “assumes” she will decide to return to New Right.
Bennett said that he was disinclined to join the Union of Right Wing Parties, saying they were religiously conservative and would chase away New Right’s secular voters to Yisrael Beytenu and even Blue and White.
He did not however rule out joining them in a technical block, but said that “all options were on the table” including a political union with Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut party.
Speaking about a new law for haredi military service enlistment which must be passed by the next Knesset, Bennett said that the most important issue regarding haredi society was integrating them into the work force and not the IDF.
He said that ideally he would even create a ten year exemption for all haredi men from the IDF in order to allow those who wanted to integrate directly into the economy without being stuck in yeshivas as they are currently required to be if they chose to obtain a military service exemption.
Bennett last month said that he would reduce the age of military exemption to 21 so as to allow young haredi men to leave yeshiva at an earlier age and enter higher education or professional training.
He said on Wednesday that the current bill which began the legislative process in the last Knesset was “nonsense” and would not lead to more haredi men enlisting.
Experts have indeed cast doubt on whether the legislation would lead to significant increases in haredi enlistment but equally stated that Bennett’s proposals would reduce not increase the numbers of haredi men going to the army.