Prime Minister Naftali Bennett pushed back on Monday night against those who claimed his English use of the phrase “West Bank” is part of a larger ideological shift from the Right to the Left.
“The correct phrase is definitively Judea and Samaria,” he told Channel 13, in one of a series of interviews Bennett has given to defend his record and that of his government, amid speculation that the country might be heading to a new election.
Bennett’s decision to use the phrase “West Bank” during a joint news conference with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Jerusalem has been harshly criticized by the Right, including the Likud, though party leader Benjamin Netanyahu also used the phrase West Bank when he was prime minister.
“This is not the first time that I have spoken of the West Bank with foreigners,” Bennett told Channel 13, adding that he had “spoken in English and not in Hebrew.”
There is a “double standard,” Bennett said.
To demonstrate that he was on the Right, Bennett said he has stood strong against the US in support of right-wing interests. He took credit for refusing to allow the US to reopen its consulate in Jerusalem, which had served as a de facto embassy for the Palestinian Authority until it was closed in 2019.
“I was the person who stood against US President [Joe] Biden when he said we are opening the consulate in Jerusalem,” he said. “I respectfully told the president that we cannot allow this, because Jerusalem is the capital of only one nation, and that is the nation of Israel.”
Bennett alluded to Netanyahu when he said: “I inherited [a government] from someone who made concessions and agreed that [a Palestinian capital] would be in [Jerusalem’s] Abu Dis.”
N12 asked Bennett more bluntly whether he could still be considered right-wing, as a result of his use of the phrase “West Bank.”
“I don’t have to prove that I am Right,” Bennett said, citing his government’s investment in the Golan Heights and the Negev.
Alluding to Qatari cash that Netanyahu had allowed to enter the Gaza Strip during his premiership, Bennett said he was the one who “halted the suitcases of cash.”
“To be right-wing is not Bibism,” Bennett said, making a wordplay on Netanyahu’s nickname of Bibi. “What is Bibism? It’s to yell all day against the Left, but in practice to cave in to the enemy.”