Education Minister Naftali Bennett made his first public comments regarding a clash with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during a closed-door meeting last week.
On Thursday the Jewish Home chief spoke out regarding the IDF’s continued presence in strategic locations across Judea and Samaria, the bone of contention during his confrontation with Netanyahu last week.
Bennett, who has sought to prevent limitations on the IDF’s ability to operate in major Palestinian Authority cities, demanded the issue be brought up for discussion by the security cabinet, in accordance with the Prime Minister’s promise last Sunday.
When Bennett found that the agenda for last Wednesday’s cabinet meeting did not include the issue of IDF operations in PA towns, Bennett demanded Netanyahu abide by his earlier pledge to do so.
Senior officials present claimed Netanyahu was enraged by the demand and threatened to fire Bennett on the spot.
Despite threat, Bennett insists he will continue to fight on behalf of the IDF’s ability to combat terrorism unencumbered.
Bennett recalled the security situation in 2002 during the Second Intifada, when the IDF was still barred from operating in PA cities.
“Galit and I were living in the US [because of the demands of] my startup company, Cyota, and we were preparing for the Passover Seder. All of the sudden we saw on television that in Israel there was a bomb attack in the Park Hotel in Netanya, right at the time of the Seder. Tens of people killed and a many wounded. It was the peak of the Second Intifada, there were more than 100 Israelis killed in March alone; it was clear to me that this time Israel could not exercise restraint. Immediately I did everything I could to get a ticket to Israel, and within a few days I was in Ben Gurion Airport.”
Bennett’s father took him to a greenhouse near Kibbutz Yad Hannah, where his reserve unit was preparing for an operation in the Tulkarem area.
“I joined thousands of other reservists who enlisted to defend the homeland. There was a mountain of candy, t-shirts, and bottles of drinks – all donated by wonderful citizens who wanted to help us. Within five weeks the IDF entered the Palestinian cities, captured them, and cleaned them out, defeating the terror.”
“Yes, we defeated terrorism. We didn’t give up, we didn’t say we have to understand their motivations, we didn’t say there is no solution, we simply wiped out the terrorists. A complete victory by the IDF. The price was heavy – 29 soldiers were killed in battle during Operation Defensive Shield.”
“There, during Defensive Shield I learned: only when the IDF and the Shin Bet are free to operate, to gather information, and to prevent terror attacks before they happen can we prevent bombings in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. When you catch a terrorist in his bed at 3 a.m. in Shechem, you prevent an explosion at 3 p.m. in a café in Tel Aviv. We can never give up on the freedom to operate there, something that we attained at such a heavy cost during Operation Defensive Shield. We can never be led to believe that the PA police of Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] will watch over us. We can never go back to the days of Oslo and Medhat Yosef [the Druze soldier killed at Yosef’s tomb in 2000], when we outsourced our security. Only IDF soldiers and the Shin Bet can protect us.”
“Today, as a member of the security cabinet, I will continue to do everything I can to preserve the IDF’s ability to operate anywhere it needs, even if people will chastise me for it or threaten to fire me. Our citizens’ safety comes first.”