The battles between the two pairs began during Operation Protective Edge and the Bayit Yehudi Party is now trying to bring back the voters who deserted it in the last elections in order to rescue Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from defeat.
On Wednesday, Netanyahu and Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon embarked upon a daring retaliatory operation in the Right’s hinterland that had, over the weekend and during the Succot holiday, turned them into a punching bag.
It was a scrupulously planned action that employed some surprising backup forces, diversion tactics, and a pincer movement as well. Even Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, a quiet guy with a healthy disgust for politics and intrigue, was recruited without his knowledge, when he declared in the course of a field trip on Tuesday that “no one ties the IDF’s hands [behind its back].” Eisenkot aired similar sentiments at a cabinet meeting last Saturday evening in response to Arye Machlouf Deri’s (commissioned) question. Thus, he provided the necessary moral backing to Bogie and Bibi’s claims.
Deri holds the “official certificate of moderation” from as far back as the first Gulf War, when he helped then prime minister Yitzhak Shamir prevent then defense minister Moshe Arens from bombing Iraq. At that same late Saturday night meeting, Deri bulldozed over Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked by asking them what they were planning to lead us to. A war? He asked them: What’s happened to your sense of responsibility? He demanded to know.
Bennett and Shaked are willing to swear on oath that Deri is coordinating with Netanyahu. To be honest, those two have to be coordinated on something or other after the farce over the natural gas outline.
Between one thing and another, Bogie Ya’alon himself discharged all kinds of utterances into the air with regard to irresponsible elements igniting the atmosphere, without bestowing so much as a single generous look on Bennett, his prime nemesis from Operation Protective Edge.
Bibi, who banged on the table in a manner that behooves a leader, provided the final punch line: “What happened in Protective Edge will not happen again. If it repeats itself, this government will not exist.” He announced this and then, in a winning crescendo, turned to Bennett to make sure, “Did you hear that?” he asked and turned his glance toward Shaked: “Did you hear that?” Yes, they heard. They also heard the voices that came on the eve of the Succot holiday from New York, where Netanyahu was staying. There were moments during which Shaked and Bennett were convinced that Bibi would capitulate to the heavy pressure (in the simplest sense of the word) at home, to fire the justice minister for the interview she gave to Channel 2 on Friday. But then Bibi recalled that, at the present time, he has no alternative to Bayit Yehudi and scrapped this decision.
One way or the other, Shaked and Bennett received their brownie points over the weekend and Bibi got his brownie points on Tuesday. On the substantive level in this disagreement, Netanyahu and Ya’alon are right, since there really is no reason to carry out a second Operation Defensive Shield at this time, because it is unnecessary to re-conquer the West Bank, because the IDF’s freedom of movement is alive and kicking, as testified by the daring arrest in the Nablus hospital and the undercover forces’ activity in the refugee camp in Jenin. There is no point firing up the atmosphere.
But Bennett and Shaked also have a case. Not a substantive, but a political one, yet one that is no less solid.
Bayit Yehudi voters agree with Bennett and Shaked’s positions. They believe in showing more determination, they believe that it is wrong to accept the current reality, that it is necessary to press harder on the gas and bring back the deterrent.
The trouble is that these same voters abandoned Bennett and Shaked in the last elections in order to save Netanyahu, because they believed in his crazy break to the right. So what happened is that Bibi both stole their electorate and betrayed it the following day. And now it is they who are paying the price.
The duel between Bennett and Ya’alon actually constitutes Chapter 2 in what began last summer during Operation Protective Edge. Now, as then, Bennett set out to the field and spoke directly with the soldiers and policemen. Here, too, he came back with some interesting insights.
Then, it was a need for action to be taken in the Hamas tunnels that Bennett placed all his weight behind. This time, it’s a matter of attitude. Israel, according to Bennett, is allowing the Palestinians to humiliate it and barely reacts. In his opinion, there is a need for initiative, for response, for giving it to them. Such is Bennett’s Right, a Right that makes no apologies.
Opposite him stands the Right of Netanyahu and Ya’alon. A Mapainik kind of Right, fully aware that an American veto is more important than another Jewish stronghold/settlement on some hillock between Itamar and Tapuah. The trouble is, when the time comes for an election, Bibi masquerades as a Bennett version of the Right and, between elections, he reverts to a Mapainik kind of Right This is what Bennett has to contend with and, so far, he has been unsuccessful.
And here’s another little something: Imagine that Bibi was the current leader of the opposition. Just imagine what he would have done to any incumbent prime minister who had the nerve to tell him that he had to bite his tongue, to behave like an adult, to practice restraint; that there must be no igniting of the field, that no possibility existed at the moment of announcing renewed settler activity because the Americans and the Europeans and the Russians and the Chinese and who knows who else are liable to impose sanctions on Israel.
Bibi would have made mincemeat of such a prime minister. He would have danced in the blood where terrorist attacks had taken place, made far-reaching promises about how, when he returned to power, his government would eliminate and destroy and disband and deter all traces of terrorism. After all, just a short while ago, this actually happened: his government announced that it would topple Hamas and dismantle the terrorist government in Gaza and, no sooner had he established that very same government, than he did exactly as all previous governments had done – only less. So what does he want from Bennett?Translated by Ora Cummings.