Netanyahu and Bennett.
(photo credit: REUTERS,MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced a challenge Sunday morning from Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett, who warned him that he and the people of Israel would not accept him initiating an election due to his criminal investigations.
In a series of tweets and radio interviews, Bennett became increasingly critical and even suggested that he could run against Netanyahu for prime minister.
"Mr. Prime Minister Netanyahu: As long as you act for the good of the State of Israel, we will remain behind you," Bennett wrote on Twitter. "If you topple a right-wing government and cause unnecessary elections for personal purposes, you will lose us."
In an interview with Army Radio, Bennett said that in the past he always said he would run for prime minister in the post-Netanyahu era, but if it became apparent that "he is playing with the state and advancing elections for his personal needs," he will reconsider that decision.
The Likud responded, "while Prime Minister Netanyahu is busy solving the crisis and stabilizing his right-wing government, Bennett is busy with his personal campaign." Netanyahu's party said that if Bennett was really concerned about maintaining a right-wing government, he would commit to remaining in it until its term ends in November 2019.
Bennett If Netanyahu Steps Down, I Will Run for Prime Minister, March 8, 2018
"The last thing Bennett cares about is stabilizing a nationalist government under Netanyahu," the Likud said. "As his statements reveal, Bennett is trying to topple the prime minister and worrying about his own job."
In a meeting with Likud ministers, Netanyahu said he was working to ensure his government would complete its term. He said all coalition partners had to do their part to ensure that could happen.
"We are working for a stable government that will work until the end of its term in November 2019. We have great achievements and small tasks ahead of us. For this to happen, all the factions must reach an agreement and decide that they will continue together. We are working to try to achieve this, because the citizens of Israel want a stable government that will fill its days," Netanyahu told Likud members before a meeting.
"This morning we understood that even members of the Likud are voting in favor of all sorts of things... This is why we will continue today with efforts to reach a compromise," he said.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (Israel Beytenu) said he cannot back the current bill by United Torah Judaism and Shas on haredi (ultra-Orthodox) conscription that is the focus of the current crisis. Liberman criticized Bennett without mentioning him by name, saying that "those who want to be defense minister and also prime minister should be more modest."
"We will not work with a gun to our heads," Liberman said. "There is a limit to the amount of mudslinging from coalition partners that we can tolerate." JPost.com staff contributed to this report.