Bennett: Government's Temple Mount decisions weakened Israel

Likud minister, in contrast, says decision makers realized alliance with moderate Arab states more important.

Naftali Bennett (photo credit: Courtesy)
Naftali Bennett
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett slammed his own government’s decisions regarding the handling of the Temple Mount tensions in a scathing interview with Army Radio on Thursday.
Bennett voted against the security cabinet’s decision to remove metal detectors from the Temple Mount.
He also opposed Thursday morning’s removal of security cameras from the holy site and barriers that aided security checks at the Lions’ Gate.
“Israel comes out weakened from this crisis,” Bennett said. “Instead of sending a message about Israel’s sovereignty on the Temple Mount, it sent a message that Israel’s sovereignty can be questioned.”
Bennett called the decisions a “surrender” and compared the harm to Israeli security to the Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000. But he said that as a member of the security cabinet he bears collective responsibility, and he refused to personally criticize or blame Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Video shows removal of security apparatus from Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem
But Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi colleague, MK Bezalel Smotrich, did not hold back, writing on Twitter that “the time has come to internalize that it is either us or them,” referring to the Israeli Muslims. He slammed Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman for voting for what he called “the surrender on the Temple Mount,” saying that with another vote or two in the security cabinet “the shame could have been prevented.”
Labor chairman Avi Gabbay accused Netanyahu of haphazard decision- making and irresponsible management, which he said harmed Israel’s security and deterrence. He said Netanyahu made his decisions out of fear of Bennett taking away his political support on the Right.
“After this week, we don’t have to explain anymore why we have to replace the current government,” Gabbay said at a rally of a thousand supporters in Tel Aviv on Thursday night. “Now the public understands why what they have is not good, so we just have to reach out and make them realize we are the alternative.”
Gabbay accused Netanyahu of constantly setting new fires and struggling to extinguish them. He promised his party would put an end to what he called the “national humiliation” done to Israel by Netanyahu, Bennett and Liberman, and replace the government with responsible leadership.
“Netanyahu demonstrated weakness to us,” he said. “We saw our prime minister harm our security. We are paying the price.”
Gabbay’s Labor colleague MK Nachman Shai called the events of the past week a “colossal failure” for Netanyahu.
“The government’s zigzagging led to a Palestinian victory that does not even guarantee quiet in Jerusalem and the territories,” Shai said.
Construction Minister Yoav Gallant (Kulanu), who is also a member of the security cabinet, said its decision- making process was correct. He told Israel Radio that metal detectors do not bring security.
The decision to remove metal detectors was championed in the security cabinet by Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) Director Nadav Argaman.
Coalition chairman David Bitan (Likud) caused an uproar on Thursday when he told Army Radio that Argaman was a coward “who just wants to get back home safely.”
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid slammed Bitan, saying the Shin Bet safeguards our lives. Yesh Atid MK Yaakov Peri, who is a former director of the Shin Bet, said Bitan’s statement was dangerous because is strengthens the delegitimizing of security forces.
Netanyahu released a statement supporting Argaman and criticizing Bitan, who normally speaks for the prime minister. Netanyahu said the Shin Bet is succeeding in fighting terrorism and has saved countless lives.