Bennett: Netanyahu wants Livni in next gov't

Bayit Yehudi leader tells 'Post' he believes just like PM brought Barak into the current coalition, he will want Livni in the next.

Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)
Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu intends to form a centrist coalition with The Tzipi Livni Party rather than with natural partners on the Right, Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett said Monday in a briefing to Jerusalem Post staff at the newspaper’s headquarters in the capital’s Romema neighborhood.
When Netanyahu attacked Bennett over the last few weeks, Bennett made a point of turning the other cheek and not responding to the man who he hopes will include his party in a coalition he will form after the January 22 election. But he did not refrain from unleashing his criticism of Netanyahu on Monday, in part because he has become skeptical that he will be part of the next government.
“It’s my sense that Netanyahu wants to form a coalition with Tzipi Livni like last time, when he formed a government with [Defense Minister] Ehud Barak as his primary partner,” Bennett said. “My sense is it’s a done deal. You can see from the way Livni is talking about not ruling out joining a Netanyahu government.”
Bennett said that if he thought he would be in the coalition, he would be satisfied with winning fewer seats. However, due to his fear that Netanyahu would prefer Center-Left parties, he believes he needs to take seats from Likud “and make sure we put a third hand on the wheel of the bus driver.”
The Bayit Yehudi leader said Netanyahu damaged Israel tremendously by coming out at his June 2009 Bar-Ilan University speech in favor of a Palestinian state, which Bennett said would be national suicide for Israel.
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A former director-general of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria, Bennett’s diplomatic plan calls for annexing the Israeli-controlled Area C in the West Bank, which he said had some 400,000 Jews and 50,000 Arabs. He would create geographic continuity between the remaining areas of the West Bank that would be controlled by the Palestinians in an entity that would either be autonomous or confederated with Jordan.
“I know that if we apply Israeli law to Area C, the world won’t recognize it, but now they don’t recognize our control over the Golan Heights, the Ramot and French Hill neighborhoods of Jerusalem and even the Western Wall,” Bennett said. “We are going to have to change the world’s view. It will be a challenge but we have to start somewhere to reverse this terrible impression that a Palestinian state is a fait accompli. We are a car going toward the cliff and we have to reverse it.”
Nevertheless, Bennett said that under his leadership, Bayit Yehudi would not obsess over the Palestinian issue and would focus more on preserving Jewish identity and lower housing costs and other prices.
“Opening centers for the handicapped in Beersheba is no less important for us than preserving the Land of Israel,” he said. “I am a Land of Israel man, but if we forget that we have to take care of all of the people of Israel, our party will be a one-hit wonder.”
Bennett said he was pleased that polls show 30 percent of his party’s voters were secular and that his party leads all others among voters under 45. He said that he initially had a problem with name recognition, but Netanyahu fixed that problem by publicly attacking him.
He promised to “be a four-year slave of the public, working hard day and night for the people of Israel,” rather than serving rabbis or tycoons.
Bennett, whose parents made aliya from San Francisco before he was born, said his mother and father raised him with an appreciation for the Post.
“As a child growing up in Haifa, my parents would send me every morning to the store to get The Jerusalem Post,” he said.
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.