In Ashkelon, Netanyahu vows to strike Hamas again if needed

Feiglin takes credit for Bennett’s rise; New religious party on the cards.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu promised residents of rocket-stricken Ashkelon Thursday to protect them from Hamas rocket fire and strike back if they are attacked again from the Gaza Strip.
Speaking at a meeting of the Likud’s governing secretariat, Netanyahu said “Hamas was hit hard and [if] necessary will be hit hard again.”
Netanyahu made a point of addressing the secretariat in Ashkelon, where his nemesis, former deputy defense minister Danny Danon, intends to convene the Likud central committee on Monday.
Danon dared the prime minister to come to the meeting.
“The prime minister does not have to fear the Likud central committee,” Danon said. “He needs to address the central committee and not a small group where he does not hear a word from the grassroots.”
Netanyahu complained at the event about rifts inside Likud. Party officials said the prime minister was seriously considering advancing the next Likud leadership race, especially after Bayit Yehudi and other parties took steps to prepare themselves for the next general election.
Likud MK Moshe Feiglin, a perennial candidate for the Likud leadership, said he was ready at any moment to run.
Feiglin took credit for the achievements of Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett, who succeeded in passing a controversial constitution at Wednesday’s party convention.
The constitution enables Bennett to select three candidates to realistic Knesset slots, and, for the first time, deals with the possibility that a Bayit Yehudi head will be tasked by the president with forming a governing coalition.
“It’s a big achievement for the process of building Jewish leadership that I began,” Feiglin said. “The believing public and the general public is ready for a believing leadership. What happened in Bayit Yehudi is very positive, but it is still a sectorial party. I think the leadership of the country will come from the larger public, not the knitted kippa sector, but in the end, it doesn’t matter.”
Bennett overcame a challenge from rebel Bayit Yehudi MKs Yoni Chetboun and Mordechai Yogev at the convention. But there are still more obstacles ahead in his quest to solidify his control over the party.
A group of party activists said Thursday that they intend to leave Bayit Yehudi and form a new party that would bring together both religious Zionists and haredim (ultra-Orthodox).
Bayit Yehudi activist Itamar Federman said the passage of the constitution was the last straw for him and his allies because it enabled secular and even non-Jewish candidates to run with the party.
“Naftali Bennett has ended the religious Zionist party,” Federman said. “Not every means is kosher for achieving a goal. The house [Bayit in Hebrew] is crumbling. We need a new house.”
Officials involved in forming the new party said they would try to draft MKs to it.
They said one fitting possibility would be former Shas chairman Eli Yishai, who has also been floated as a possibility for one of the candidates Bennett can pick in Bayit Yehudi.
“We will be the surprise of the next election,” Federman said. “We are working on a new party discretely. After the holidays, we will become more official.
Haredim and religious Zionists can work together. It doesn’t have to wait for the Messiah.”