MKs react to appointment of Bennett as Defense Minister

Reactions come amid widespread speculation among Knesset members that appointment designed to prevent Bennett’s and his New Right’s faction defection to Blue and White camp

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett (photo credit: REINHARD KRAUSE/REUTERS+MARC SELLEM ISRAEL/THE JER)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett
The announcement of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Naftali Bennett, chairman of the right-wing New Right party, will be appointed as Defense Minister has garnered swift reactions among members of the Knesset, from all sides of the political spectrum, including within the Likud.
Additionally, Netanyahu and Bennett agreed that they would immediately form a joint faction for the 22nd Knesset. However, it remains unclear if Likud and the New Right will attempt a joint run in next election. More questions also remain regarding the status of former Justice Minister and Bennett’s New Right partner Ayelet Shaked, and her potential role in this joint faction.
Some commentators have already started claiming that the move may be illegal without the Knesset’s approval, since Netanyahu and his Likud party do not have the support of a majority of Knesset members. In response, the Prime Minister’s Office said, "just as Yisrael Katz was appointed foreign minister, Bennett can be appointed as defense minister.”
Bennett and Netanyahu’s relationship has often been seen as contentious, with the former starting his political career as then-opposition leader Netanyahu's Chief of Staff, from 2006 to 2008, later breaking off to run as leader of the Jewish Home party in 2011.
Within the Likud, MK Tzachi Hanegbi admitted that the appointment “is intended to prevent the right-wing bloc from disintegrating.” He added that “the expected appointment is a political move, as much as a coalition appointment of a senior minister.”
“We certainly have an interest in preventing a situation in which some members of the 55-member [right-religious] bloc will join in blue and white."
The Jewish home and the National Union, with which the New Right ran  in the September 2019 as a joint list, congratulated Bennett on his appointment as defense minister. "Congratulations to Naftali Bennett on the appointment," tweeted Education Minister and Jewish House leader Rafi Peretz.
The Blue and White party also responded to the announcement, saying that "Instead of advancing the government that the people have chosen, Netanyahu wants to continue to fortify the “immunity bloc”.
“Appointment of an apprentice as Defense Minister is not an act worthy of safeguarding the most sensitive system in the State of Israel. As usual, Netanyahu's cynical appointment is made from a narrow and personal political interest and not from what is in the best interests of the security system and the State of Israel. The country has a prime minister who put Israel first and foremost. Blue and white will continue to strive for a government in general and a unity government in particular."
Netanyahu was also criticized by the Democratic Union:  "He uses any combination of tactics and despicable tricks to cling to his chair and evade trial. Appointing ministers in a transitional government is invalid and undemocratic.” This is another example of corrupt steps from Netanyahu's campaign to de-democratize Israeli democracy.” [Bennett] is unworthy [of the position] and proves that Netanyahu has no red lines, and does not take into account - certainly not the best interests of the state – in addition to attacks on the rule of law.” “[Blue and White chairman] Benny Gantz must act more vigorously to establish a government that will end Netanyahu's tenure, for good".