Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has insisted repeatedly, in recent days, that Likud sees the Jewish Home as a major partner in its next government, and that the party will be in his coalition, no matter what. And yet, the more Netanyahu repeats the statement – the more Jewish Home Chairman Natali Bennett appears hurt by it and protests that it is not true.
Bennett insists that Likud is likely, in certain circumstances, to repeat what it did after the last elections, and prefer leftist partners like Tzipi Livni to the Jewish Home – which had to strongarm its way into the coalition through a political agreement with Yesh Atid.
What is going on?
Bennett and Netanyahu are fighting over the right-wing vote – that is, voters who support both of them – and primarily over that of religious Zionists. Netanyahu's tactic is a clever bear hug: by insisting that the Jewish Home will be in his coalition no matter how many MKs it has, he is defusing the main argument Bennett is using to convince voters to vote for him. Netanyahu is telling voters that the main danger is that he will have less MKs than Labor, in which case the president may task Labor with creating the coalition.
Polling expert Prof. Yaakov Katz told Arutz Sheva Tuesday that the infighting in the nationalist camp is unavoidable and legitimate, but it would have been wise to lay down certain ground rules in advance. “They have to trust each other, that Bennett will indeed be in the government and receive central portfolios with considerable influence,” he explained. “He will be in the Cabinet and decide many things that ministers usually do not decide. Beyond that – each one will do the maximum to bring in as many votes as possible, in order to enlarge the party.”
The Prime Minister's recent overtures toward religious Zionists, including visits to Eli, Gush Etzion and Hevron, are legitimate moves, said Katz. “Bennett needs to do the same thing, and act the same way, and meet with people who are identified with Likud – to try and persuade them to vote for him.”
Bennett must not take the matter personally, he stressed. “A minister who is personally hurt by matters like this should hand back the keys and choose a different profession. He should be a kindergarten or school teacher. For politics, you need a elephant's thick hide. You absorb punches, that is part of the game. If you are too delicate, don't get into the game.”
The two men should reach quiet understandings between themselves and stress the security issues, which will bring voters to them and away from the “center” parties, the expert added. “You must not be a crybaby, especially when you are the leader of a party with 14-15 MKs. You cannot appear like a crybaby in the eyes of the public over the 'theft' of a mandate or two.”