The coalition will not invite the Joint List to join its ranks, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett vowed amid an ongoing political crisis and outrage after Joint List leader Ayman Odeh called on Israeli police officers to refuse orders.
“The Joint List is not in this government, and will not be in this government,” Bennett told Channel 12, in one of his three television interviews on Monday. “The Joint List is not in the coalition and will not be in the coalition. There is no need to fall for every spin by our rivals. The ones in an alliance are Odeh, the Likud, and [Religious Zionist Party leader Bezalel] Smotrich – an alliance of trolls.”
In a Ramadan message, Odeh said that “it is humiliating for one of our sons to join the security forces of the occupation... Palestinian flags will be hoisted on the walls of Jerusalem and peace will spread in the land of peace. The young people must not join the occupying forces. Throw the weapon in their face and tell them that our place is not with you.”
Following an uproar over his remarks, the police contacted the State Attorney’s Office to check whether there was incitement. Likud MK Shlomo Karhi began gathering signatures on Monday from other MKs to impeach Odeh, which would require the support of 70 MKs and 90 votes in the Knesset plenum.
Odeh later said that he was not talking about Arab police officers “within the State of Israel,” but those serving in the “occupation forces” in Jerusalem, which, under Israeli law, is in the State of Israel.
Bennett said Odeh’s comments were “calling on the Arab public to rebel against Israel. I think it’s criminal. It’s a shameful thing.”
The prime minister relayed a message to Israeli Arab police officers and soldiers: “The people of Israel are proud of you. Don’t give in to this bullying.”
Bennett said that “Odeh’s way is not the way,” preferring instead Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas, “an Arab leader who recognizes Israel as Jewish, who is moderate, and who wants to build connections and lower crime in Arab society. The Smotriches and the Ayman Odehs are trying to break this thing,” referring to the coalition. “We will not allow that.”
Bennett’s television interviews came several days after coalition chairwoman Idit Silman resigned from her post and joined the opposition, leaving the coalition and opposition tied 60-60.
The first thing Bennett sought to do after learning of Silman’s resignation was to stabilize his faction and the rest of the coalition, he said, and that the coalition can survive if its members want it to.
A majority for Netanyahu without calling an election is “a fiction,” he said. “This government is continuing, because the alternative is dark days of more campaigns, fighting each other instead of fighting terror. God forbid that we go back to the paralysis in which police officers don’t have a budget, or we can’t build a new intersection in Harish.”
The prime minister said that opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Smotrich “fooled Silman and gave her a sense that she had a role promised to her... What Bibi promised won’t happen.”
Bennett said Silman was put under unprecedented pressure, with daily protests outside her home and people trying to pressure her through her husband and children.
“All of this is for Bibi to improve his plea deal,” Bennett said. “My predecessor enslaved the whole country to politics, and I am being blamed for not investing enough in politics.”
Bennett also expressed certainty that Israel will overcome the current wave of terrorist attacks as it has throughout its history.
Asked if Israel is about to embark on a broad operation against Palestinian terrorism in the West Bank like Operation Defensive Shield, which began 20 years ago this month, Bennett said he “won’t tell the enemy what we plan to do,” but that many options are being weighed, and “the terrorists know they are not protected anywhere. We are not tying the hands of the IDF, the Shin Bet, the security forces to act against the sources of terror in Jenin, in Syria and in Iran. We always have to be on the offensive, to be strong, and to know that we will win.”
Asked if continuing to ease conditions for Palestinian workers does not weaken the fight against terrorism, Bennett said the policy is one of “carrots and sticks. Whoever doesn’t want to hurt us, welcome, come work. I prefer to have workers come in a supervised way and not just illegal workers as has been happening for decades.”
As for the support for the terrorists coming from Palestinian Authority officials, Bennett said: “This is the reason I have not met with [PA President Mahmoud Abbas]. He is playing a double game, encouraging terror through education and payments for terrorists.”
But the premier said that Defense Minister Benny Gantz can choose whether to meet with Abbas – as he has done multiple times.
“I fought in Defensive Shield 20 years ago, and people said you couldn’t defeat terror,” Bennett said. “To win, we have to work together. In this case, the opposition, instead of supporting us as I did in Operation Guardian of the Walls [last year], they’re accusing the government of murder and shocking things. That is not the way.”
Bennett contrasted right-wing policies and “Bibism,” referring to Netanyahu devotees.
“Right-wing isn’t screaming into a megaphone,” Bennett said. “That’s Bibism. Right-wing is stopping the suitcase of cash to Gaza. Right-wing is responding to every balloon from Gaza and not pretending that rockets were launched by an electrical storm as the previous government did.”
Bennett also commented on his efforts to mediate between Ukraine and Russia.
“When someone asks me for help in a central matter in the world, I will come to help,” he said.
But now, the prime minister added, “I am totally busy with Israel’s security. To be clear: I was criticized for not being wrapped in the Ukrainian flag,” referring to a comment by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. “That’s true. I am wrapped in the Israeli flag. I care about our security, about being able to attack Iran as directly as possible.”
Israel and Russia have a deconfliction mechanism by which the former informs the latter, the major military force in Syria, before strikes on Iranian targets over Israel’s northern border.
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.