Analysis: Why does Bennett care so much about the Security Cabinet?

No government in Israel has come or gone based on the issue so apparently trivial as whether a cabinet secretary will be appointed to brief the Security Cabinet.

By
May 30, 2016 03:04
3 minute read.
Netanyahu Bennett

Netanyahu and Bennett. (photo credit: REUTERS,MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Governments in Israel have been toppled on matters of war and peace, life and death, and the ability of the poor to survive.

But no government in Israel has come or gone based on the issue so apparently trivial as whether a cabinet secretary will be appointed to brief the Security Cabinet.

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So why is Education Minister Naftali Bennett going so far to the point that elections could be initiated?

The answers are both politically complex and psychologically deep and regards the personalities, the past and the politics of Bennett and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The first reason, as usual in politics, is revenge.

Ahead of last year's election, Bennett, whose party received 17 mandates in the polls, received a commitment from Netanyahu to appoint him as Defense Minister. They reached an agreement that Likud and Bayit HaYehudi would not attack each other during the campaign.

Not only did Netanyahu not honor the agreement, the Likud's strategy throughout the election was to steal as many votes as possible from Bennett.



Netanyahu also has motives of revenge in not giving into Bennett on this issue or any other. Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, reportedly blame Bennett and his ally, Justice Minister Ayelet shaked, for leaking the "Bibi Tours" scandal about Netanyahu's trips abroad after the prime minister, at his wife's insistence, fired Bennett and Shaked from their roles as his Chief-of-Staff and Bureau Chief.

Bennett's demand  came at a bad time for him because it was right after the "Bibi Tours" affair was the subject of a damning comptroller's report.

Police recommendations about Sara Netanyahu on Sunday did not help Bennett either.

The second reason is ego. Bennett alleged in a letter he wrote activist over the weekend that the PM allowed the lives of soldiers to be lost by keeping ministers uninformed because of his own ego.

There is no shortage of egos on both sides in this dispute. It has harmed Bennett's ego when he has to explain Security Cabinet votes by admitting that he was kept in the dark on key information.

Egos are powerful in politics. Ahead of the initiation of the last election, politicians said no one had an interest in initiating a race at that point, but then egos got out of control.

The third reason is that Bennett feels he has nothing to lose by going to elections. He is confident that he can win a lot more than his party's current eight seats because the public has moved to the Right and he will not fall into Netanyahu's trap again.

Bennett does not seem comfortable in his role as education minister but cannot admit it, so elections are his only way out.

Right wing parties have been scared in the past of toppling Right-wing governments because of the trauma of 1992, when Right-wing parties toppled former Likud prime minister Yitzhak Shamir and ended up with Labour PM Yizthak Rabin and his Oslo Peace process. Bennett has no such fear because the Left has been weakened substantially since then.

The final reason is that Bennett actually means it.

Bennett was a successful high-tech millionaire who entered public service and then politics because his experience in the Second Lebanon War [2006] disturbed him. He saw his friends die before his very eyes, and he could not take it anymore.

Since then he has tried to change how decisions are made in Israel unsuccessfully. He now believes he finally has the political leverage to make the change happen. With all due respect to the more cynical answers, that might be the real reason that he has gone so far.


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