The New Right's Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked walk off after exit polls show they won't enter the 21st Knesset.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fulfilled a long-standing dream on Sunday when he fired his political nemeses, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.
Bennett and Shaked ran in the April 9 election with the New Right Party, which did not cross the electoral threshold. Sources close to Netanyahu said Bennett and Shaked could not continue in their sensitive roles and in the security cabinet for another six months after they were rejected by the public.
Netanyahu has not yet decided on their replacements. A shake-up of Likud ministers is expected on Monday night or Tuesday, only after Monday’s vote for the state comptroller. Not appointing ministers yet allowed Netanyahu to keep his faction in line ahead of the vote in the Knesset between Likud candidate Matanyahu Englman and Blue and White candidate Giora Rom.
Bennett and Shaked released a joint statement saying they “thank the people of Israel from the bottom of our hearts for the right to serve them as ministers.” They promised to transfer their ministries to their successors in an organized manner for the public good.
Bennett said the New Right will run in the September 17 election, but Shaked’s future remains unclear.
“It’s not good that Israel has repeat elections but it’s an opportunity to come back smarter, more serious and more modest,” Bennett said. “That goes for me, too. The New Right will be a unifying party.”
Channel 13 reported on Sunday that Sara Netanyahu vetoed Shaked running with Likud.
Rabbi Joseph Gutnick, the Melbourne Chabad rabbi and diamond miner whose “Netanyahu is good for the Jews” campaign helped crown him as prime minister in 1996, said Netanyahu was making a grave mistake by ruling out Shaked.
“It was very childish and unprofessional to sack her and Bennett and embarrass them, and he will lose a lot of respect for doing such an irrational act,” Gutnick said. “I fail to understand not enlisting Ayelet in Likud, as she could bring to Likud the extra seats needed to form a right-wing government. It’s not too late for Bibi to change his mind. He is shooting himself in the foot. I am extremely disappointed in how he is treating her.”
Union of Right-Wing Parties leaders Rafi Peretz and Bezalel Smotrich have demanded the vacant portfolios. Sources close to Netanyahu said the firing of Shaked and Bennett was not at the request of Smotrich and Peretz.
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit ruled that it is legal for MKs who are not ministers to be added to the cabinet without the approval of the Knesset.
Smotrich said on Army Radio on Sunday that Shaked would not be given the top slot on any joint list.
“You left, you destroyed, you failed, and now because of your mistake, the country is going through dizziness because of you,” Smotrich said. “You can join us but there is no reason in the world for you to be No. 1.”
After a meeting of its four leaders tonight, Blue and White announced that the party will be running in the same format on September 17 as it did in April, led by Benny Gantz as a candidate for prime minister in a rotation with Yair Lapid. There were those in Blue and White who wanted to give up the rotation, because haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties have ruled out joining a coalition with Lapid.
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