As any writer or public speaker knows, words are significant. Every word is measured and considered for its impact. Every turn of phrase is chosen carefully to ensure that it will send the right message. Words can effect change. Words are chosen based on the message the one speaking them wishes to convey, be it subtle or bold. For this reason, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s chosen words this week are so incredibly disappointing.
This week marked the landmark Negev Summit, bringing together leaders from Israel, America, Egypt, Bahrain, Morocco and the UAE. It was an opportunity for dialogue, yes, but also for a show of strength by Israel and its Gulf partners in the face of a quickly approaching Iran deal. This Iran deal is of course being pushed forward by our ally, the United States. The same ally that has taken every opportunity to express its intent to support a Palestinian state come hell or high water.
This is also the same ally that just recently offered a million dollar grant to NGOs that will report Israeli human rights violations against said Palestinians. And in front of the US secretary of state, Prime Minister Bennett made a choice to refer to Judea and Samaria as the West Bank.
You may ask, what’s the big deal? Bennett knows exactly what a big deal it is. After all, this is the same Bennett who was once the head of the Yesha Council. The same Bennett who claimed that we will not apologize for being right wing and for living in the entirety of our own country. This is the same Bennett who tells the media over and over again that we are Jews from Judea. The Bennett that most of us remember knows that the term West Bank is a term used to distance Israel and Israelis from the land of our forefathers, the heartland of our people.
The West Bank is a term used by the left-wing to describe a central, core part of Israel when they discuss the land that they believe should be handed over to the Palestinians. It is also the term used when the world attacks Israel, tacked on to other terms like occupation and apartheid. Bennett knows all of this, perhaps better than most, so why did he use it?
After being questioned, Bennett’s staff brushed it off and claimed that it was pre-written, he read it in the moment and that it didn’t mean anything. But how could that be? I can only come to two conclusions: Either it really didn’t mean much and he hadn’t planned it, in which case one has to question how he didn’t catch such a significant statement, or the Bennett we remember is really gone. The Bennett that made this error is one who seems more concerned with placating his left-wing governing partners in order to keep this barely there coalition together than he is in standing up for his beliefs and his country.
This Bennett is so busy playing nice with the Biden administration in the US that he is forgetting to speak up loudly and firmly and fight against an Iran deal that puts his country in mortal danger. If so, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by this latest misstep. It has been so long since Bennett has stood up firmly and confidently for the beliefs and ideology he once presented so proudly that maybe he forgot that words matter. Or he forgot which words matter. Or maybe, they really just don’t matter to him anymore. Either way is a disappointment.
The writer is the founder of Israeli Politics Simplified – a Facebook page dedicated to simplifying and informing Anglos about politics in Israel.