Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was hammered Sunday by his right-wing opponents who charged that his rule had been one long string of broken promises on the issue of West Bank settlements.
“Netanyahu is a person who promises, but never fulfills,” accused New Hope Party head Gideon Sa’ar, noting that for Netanyahu it’s a normative state of affairs not to speak the truth.
“Netanyahu is not the sun and we are not his stars,” Sa’ar added.
As the election headed toward its last 48-hour stretch, Netanyahu has focused his attention in particular on Yamina Party head Naftali Bennett, whose voters he has long pilfered in the battles for right-wing voters.
This has included a trip to the settlements last week. Netanyahu had initially intended to make a campaign stop in the Revava settlement in the Samaria region of the West Bank on Sunday to bolster support, but at the last minute, when camera crews were already on the ground, he delayed it until Monday.
Bennett and Sa’ar’s campaign against Netanyahu on his policies with respect to Judea and Samaria, however, continued. They both attacked Netanyahu at a preelection conference sponsored by the religious-Zionist news organization Srugim.
The event took place at a site overlooking the illegal West Bank herding village of Kahn al-Ahmar. It was a visual that underscored the theme of the event, where are the promises of the Right.
Netanyahu has never made good on his promise to remove the illegal encampment of close to 200 Bedouin who live in tents and huts near the Kfar Adumim settlement on a small strip of land overlooking Route 1.
Among the reasons often cited for the failure to evacuate Kahn al-Ahmar, is the warning issued by International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda that its demolition could be considered a war crime.
Sa’ar referenced this when speaking of Kahn al-Ahmar, noting that “it’s amazing” how this all ended, Sa’ar said.
Netanyahu “did not evacuate Khan al-Ahmar and there are [war crimes] suits against us in The Hague. He both ate the bad fish and was expelled from the vineyard,” Sa’ar said.
Bennett clarified that he had supported the evacuation of Kahn al-Ahmar, even though he himself took no action on it when he was Defense Minister.
Sa’ar had a list of ways Netanyahu had failed the Right, including not authorizing the illegal settler outposts, which he referred to as the “young settlements.” Netanyahu at the end of last year had promised to issue a government declaration in favor of their legalization, but was not able in the end to secure support from Alternative Prime Minister Benny Gantz for such a move. But even prior to last year, Netanyahu had not aggressively pursued the legalization of those communities, while Sa’ar has been very strong on this topic.
The outpost issue was a particularly egregious failure, Sa’ar said, given that Netanyahu operated for the last four years with a supportive government in the United States headed by former US president Donald Trump.
During that time, Netanyahu also failed to halt the Palestinian Authority from increasing its holding on open areas in Area C of the West Bank through illegal building, Sa’ar said.
“Netanyahu has done nothing to stop this,” he said.
On top of that, the rate of settlement growth has dropped and that occurred when Trump was in power, Sa’ar said. Netanyahu had not maximized that support offered by Trump to advance settlement growth and Israeli control over Area C, he explained.
“The battle for the Land of Israel will be determined here, in this field and not in the United States,” Sa’ar said.
Sa’ar promised he could do a better job than Netanyahu on these issues. But he had no answer when quizzed as to how he would do this, if he were to enter a coalition led by the centrist Yesh Atid Party and which would likely include the left-wing parties such as Labor and Meretz.
Bennett also underscored the fact that Netanyahu both supported a demilitarized Palestinian state and had not annexed West Bank settlements, as promised.
He recalled that he had been the first high-level minister to speak of Israel sovereignty over Area C, adding that many of the right-wing policies on settlements had been initiated by his party.
“I was the first to speak of sovereignty, people laughed, now the whole world recognizes it,” Bennett said.
When reminded that Netanyahu had secured Trump’s initial support for that sovereignty, Bennett shot back, “but is there sovereignty on even an inch of territory [in Judea and Samaria]?”
Sa’ar with his comments positioned himself as a right-wing alternative in a non-Netanyahu government, but could not explain how that vision could come to fruition, given that according to the polls, Lapid is likely to be the only other politician tasked with forming a government.
Bennett in contrast appeared to position himself as a necessary cog in a Netanyahu government, when it came to advancing a pro-settlement agenda, pledging that he would only sit in a “right-wing government.”
“I’m more right-wing than Netanyahu,” he said. “A strong Yamina is a security policy for those who want a government with a right-wing agenda.
“We don’t bend on the issue of ideology,” Bennett said.