Bennett's confrontation with Likud MKs: Spontaneous or Strategy? - analysis

Top coalition officials admitted that they cringed when they watched Bennett give opposition MKs exactly what they wanted.

 Prime Minister Naftali Bennett points at opposition members amid squabble in Knesset plenum, January 5, 2022 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett points at opposition members amid squabble in Knesset plenum, January 5, 2022
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

When the government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid was formed, Lapid promised it would be boring for political reporters.

A few months earlier, Lapid went even further in his promise of what would happen if he helped form a government.

“There will be quiet,” Lapid vowed. “A government is not supposed to make so much noise. A prime minister is not supposed to make so much noise. A government is an administrative body that manages and sets policy. It is supposed to wake up in the morning, work quietly and make people’s lives better.”

What happened in the Knesset plenum was anything but quiet. It was one thing when opposition MKs shouted “shame” at coalition MKs on the Right who voted to hook up illegally built Arab homes to electricity and voted against doing the same thing for Jewish homes in outposts in Judea and Samaria.

The opposition MKs were doing their job. Especially now, when the opposition is boycotting Knesset committees, all they can really do is shout, scream and squawk.

 Prime Minister Naftali Bennett argues with opposition members amid squabble in Knesset plenum, January 5, 2022 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM) Prime Minister Naftali Bennett argues with opposition members amid squabble in Knesset plenum, January 5, 2022 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

What changed in the Knesset plenum on Wednesday, was that the prime minister himself joined the hullabaloo

Bennett's job is to fight COVID-19, prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons and improve Israel's ties with the Biden administration, not charge Likud backbenchers in the plenum. 

Opposition MKs involved in the incident said they were overjoyed that they had succeeded in getting Bennett to lose his cool.

“[Former prime ministers Yitzhak] Shamir, [Ariel] Sharon, and Netanyahu never behaved like that,” said Likud MK Yoav Kisch, whom Bennett confronted. “Bennett showed everyone in the country how weak he is.”

Top coalition officials admitted that they cringed when they watched Bennett give opposition MKs exactly what they wanted.

But sources close to Bennett said what Bennett was doing was sacrificing his own credibility to come to the defense of MKs in his Yamina faction, who have been suffering from months of criticism from the Likud. It was no wonder that Bennett pounced not when the Likud shouted at him for his vote but when they were screaming at Yamina MKs Nir Orbach and Yomtob Kalfon. 

"It was a leadership decision," a source close to Bennett said. "He decided not to hide behind anyone and to be the bullet proof vest for Yamina MKs at a tough time for them."

When asked why a prime minister bothered to confront and bully random Likud MKs, a source close to Bennett said his target was actually opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, but Netanyahu turned his back on him and avoided the fight, letting his underlings in Likud like Kisch duke it out for him. 

"He was on the way to Bibi, but Bibi ran away," the source close to Bennett said. "The prime minister acted like an officer in the army. Not every battle in the army looks pretty." 

But battles tend to not be boring, and as we saw in the Knesset, battles also tend to be loud.