Coalition chair warns ‘Bennett is playing with fire’

Coalition chairperson MK David Biton (Likud) warned the Jewish Home party on Monday that Education Minister Naftali Bennett's barbs against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Jerusalem Day the day before are liable to split the coalition.

Speaking at Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, Bennett insinuated that Netanyahu is "in favor of the Land of Israel in Hebrew and of creating a Palestinian state in English." Netanyahu has stated – in both languages – that he supports the two-state solution.

"Bennett is playing with fire," warned Biton. "If he continues to threaten either we'll go to elections or another party will enter in the place of Jewish Home."

According to Biton, Netanyahu's statements in favor of the two-state solution and holding negotiations with the Palestinians are meant to appease the US and European states, but do not reflect his actual intentions.

"I don't believe that that will take form, and Bennett knows that too, and still he is running a fixed election campaign. There is a time for elections, and there is a time for running the state."

The coalition chairperson clarified that in negotiations with the leftist Zionist Union party on the possibility of bringing it into a unity government, Opposition chairperson Yitzhak Herzog was told that Jewish Home would remain in the government.

"If we had given up on Jewish Home, an agreement with them would have been signed within a minute. We proved loyalty to the nationalist camp and to Jewish Home," said Biton.

Bennett's statements have led to a backlash from Likud, with officials accusing him of hypocrisy and opportunism.

“Bennett's campaign of hypocrisy knows no borders,” charged one senior source in the Likud. “He who sat with Tzipi Livni in a government that held direct negotiations with the Palestinians suddenly discovered the light and magically it happened just as (Avigdor) Liberman was appointed Defense Minister.”

“If Bennett insists on taking the Jewish Home out of the coalition for personal reasons, the consequences will be entirely on him, but he should not try to sell to the public that he is doing it for ideological motivations, because no one is buying it,” he added.

Liberman also addressed the spat on Monday, calling on Bennett "to relax."


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