Netanyahu and Bennett.
(photo credit: REUTERS,MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Senior officials close to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett vigorously denied reports over the weekend about their associates negotiating their Likud and Bayit Yehudi parties running together in the next election.
The reports in two Hebrew newspapers spoke about two possibilities: a joint list similar to the recently dissolved Likud Beytenu partnership, or a more informal bond in which Bennett will refrain from attacking Netanyahu and serve as his foreign minister in the next government.
The prime minister likes such bonds, because they help ensure that the president will appoint him to form the government. Netanyahu made a deal with the Tzomet and Gesher parties ahead of the 1996 election, and Bennett tried to negotiate a deal for the prime minister with Yisrael Beytenu ahead of the 2009 election, when he was Netanyahu’s chief of staff. Such a deal could be especially important ahead of the next election, due to Netanyahu’s hostile past relations with President Reuven Rivlin.
Netanyahu’s current chief of staff, Ari Harow, and Bennett’s political adviser, Shalom Shlomo, recently were spotted eating in public together, leading to the speculation. But sources in both parties said Harow and Shlomo were friends who worked closely together in Netanyahu’s office last term, and therefore their meeting was not proof of anything.
“The reports were complete nonsense,” a source close to Bennett said.
The source attributed the reports to Bennett’s enemies in the Bayit Yehudi faction who are trying to stop him from passing a controversial constitution at Wednesday’s party convention that would give him additional powers.
Bennett’s critics in the party have warned that he will turn Bayit Yehudi into a second Likud.
The head of the Likud central committee, MK Danny Danon, came out against the idea of a bond, even though he did not think it was real.
“Any initiative, no matter how imaginative, must come for approval in the central committee,” Danon said. “My feeling is that after the failed bond with Yisrael Beytenu, central committee members know such bonds don’t strengthen the nationalist camp and of course not the Likud.”