Netanyahu and Bennett.
(photo credit: REUTERS,MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett unleashed an angry tirade against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a speech to his party activists, according to a recording revealed Thursday by Army Radio political correspondent Ido Benbaji.
Sources present at Bayit Yehudi’s pre-Passover toast Wednesday night said Bennett was sweating, defensive, and repeatedly heckled by party activists. Sources in the party admitted the leak was damaging and said there was no way it could have been leaked intentionally.
“The prime minister is counting on our sector being suckers,” Bennett told the activists. “He thinks he can try to trick us again, to say [we can have] either Foreign Affairs or Education [portfolio]. Why, what happened?” Bennett said it is “not written in stone” that Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman must be foreign minister, that Shas leader Arye Deri must be interior minister, or that Shas “will trample us in the Religious Affairs Ministry.”
Explaining why he is seeking to be foreign minister or defense minister, Bennett said he saw in the security cabinet that key moves were made by those who hold those portfolios together with the prime minister.
“The big decisions are made above, and we want to be there in the Foreign Affairs or Defense ministries, with a foothold in Education, Finance, and Justice [ministries],” he said, explaining that a foothold could be in the form of a deputy minister.
The Likud responded that “Bennett is in dire straits because he has not found a partner to gang up on Likud like he did with [Yesh Atid leader Yair] Lapid in 2013.” Netanyahu’s party accused Bennett of “creating a crisis and deepening the conflict.”
But Bayit Yehudi officials accused Netanyahu of starting the fight by refusing to speak to Bennett about key issues and trying to get Bayit Yehudi activists to pressure Bennett to settle for the Education portfolio.
Refael Meruvka, who is heard heckling Bennett in the recording, told Army Radio that Education is “the most important portfolio for a religious Zionist party” and that it is “more important than meetings in Lausanne.”
Hours after the recording was broadcast, the Likud and Bayit Yehudi negotiating teams held a three-hour meeting described by both parties as positive and productive. Bayit Yehudi faction head Ayelet Shaked said her party would not compromise on guaranteeing additional construction in Judea and Samaria and northern Israel and passing nationalist legislation, such as her nonprofit organizations bill.
The Likud’s negotiating team met for a sixth time with representatives of United Torah Judaism Thursday. Likud officials said deals with both UTJ and Shas could have been done by now if it were not for disputes between those two parties with Kulanu and Bayit Yehudi. No further talks will be held with UTJ or Shas until April 12, after the Passover holiday ends.