Bennett to PM: Religious Zionists don’t work for you

Orlev takes credit for preventing debate in party race, blasts Bennet for lack of political experience.

Naftali Bennett 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Naftali Bennett 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Habayit Hayehudi leadership candidate Naftali Bennett fiercely attacked Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at an event featuring the three contenders for the chairmanship of the party Tuesday night at the Jerusalem College of Technology.
Bennett, who served as Netanyahu’s bureau chief when he was opposition leader, made a reference to the significant proportion of the prime minister’s staff who happen to be religious Zionists – while there are no knitted kippot in Netanyahu’s inner security cabinet.
“I have a message for Netanyahu,” Bennett said. “We don’t work for you anymore. Religious Zionists will no longer be the whipping boy of Israeli politics.”
Asked about reports that the prime minister has interfered in the race in an effort to harm him, Bennett said: “I think Netanyahu prefers that Habayit Hayehudi remain a weak party that won’t give him problems. Now polls say we would take three seats from him. The stronger we get, the more he will interfere.”
Bashing his competition in the race, MK Zevulun Orlev, who served as social welfare minister until shortly before the Gaza Strip withdrawal, Bennett said he would not have stayed for a minute in a government that gave land to Israel’s enemies.
Orlev blasted Bennett for lacking political experience and for his plan to open up the party to secular Israelis. He said there was no time to have another party leader that needs lessons in how the Knesset works.
“We are a religious party before a nationalist party,” Orlev said. “All our representatives need to have deep roots so our views will be grounded in our religion and our land. Politics is not a reality show. You need experience.
I told Bennett: ‘Run for Knesset. There is plenty of time for you to head the party later on.’” The conference was initially intended to be a debate between the candidates, but because Orlev vowed to boycott such an event, the candidates spoke separately.
“I am looking for debates with other parties,” Orlev said.
“The day after the election, we have to be in the same party. I strongly believe that parties must handle elections with respect, and we are.”
The candidates each claimed to be winning Habayit Hayehudi’s membership drive, which is expected to decide the November 6 election. Bennett said a new supporter was joining the party on his website every three minutes, and he later proved it by displaying the new members and their contact information as they were coming in.
Orlev said that his supporters were joining at a rate of one every 10 seconds. Both Orlev and the incumbent Habayit Hayehudi chairman, Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz, vowed that his membership drive would surprise the press and the public.
“In politics there is just as much psychological warfare as in the army,” Herschkowitz said. “I have my doubts that any candidate will register as many members as me.”