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EXCLUSIVE

Naftali Bennett: Stop US Aid, Slash Israel’s Military Budget

"I think it's none of our business in Israel to intervene in American domestic decisions."

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“We’re going to get along quite well,” Bennett told me. “I worked with Prime Minister Netanyahu for a couple of years, I like the guy. Yes, there are tensions, because we disagree on some stuff, but it’s nothing that 12, 14, or 15 Knesset mandates won’t solve. He’ll get over it…”

I asked Bennett why, in his opinion, the Jewish Home appeals to so many secular Israelis (in recent polls, between 40 and 45 percent of Bennett’s supporters have identified themselves as non-religious).

“People are fed up with the various camps, they want to unite,” the candidate answered in a sharp tone. “They’re fed up with the discourse of hate. They don’t want to hate Haredim, they don’t want to hate the religious, they don’t want to hate the secular, they want to get together and solve problems.”

He added: “That’s what I think is so attractive about us. We’re primarily focused on the younger generation, and I’m very happy that the younger generation is less susceptible to hate rhetoric.”

Bennett’s youth revolution at the Jewish Home party was stunning. In a period of just about three months, Bennett managed to infuse a spirit of youth that resurrected what had been the tiny dual remnants of the religious right – Jewish home and its twin, National Union.

The process wasn’t problem-free by any stretch. National Union ousted through dubious maneuvering two of its major vote getters, MKs Michael Ben Ari and Aryeh Eldad, who are running on an independent list dubbed Power for Israel.

Inside Jewish Home, heir of the ancient NRP (created in 1956 through the merger of Mizrachi and Hapoel HaMizrachi), the party’s traditional apparatus was overwhelmed by the onslaught of Bennett’s new, imaginative and dazzlingly ambitious drive to capture the leadership. It is certainly also a measure of just how frail and decrepit the old party had been, that this outsider, in just three months, defeated the old guard’s candidate Zevulun Orlev by a 67 to 32 margin.

I asked Bennett if he thought there was a chance of brining Eldad and Ben Ari back into the fold.

“Right now, we’re two different parties, and from a legal standpoint we’re running separately. So for now it is what it is,” he quipped.

The Jewish Home platform economic section talks about a “free economy with compassion.” In practice, this means not raising taxes on the middle class, but at the same time they want the safety net for the poor to remain intact, improve education, and maintain military readiness. With a deficit of several billion dollars, how is he planning to do all that?

“The reality is that we have a big deficit. We’re going to have to cut the defense budget, which has doubled over the past decade from $8 billion to $16.4 billion a year,” Bennett recites, then delivers the punchline: “Contrary to what many think, some military threats have actually been reduced. Today’s Egyptian army has no offensive capability—it’s in dire straits. Syria is in no position to send forces into Israel. We can cut there.”

He continues: “We need to free up the economy from the monopolies that are choking it. That will grow the revenue. And we need to free the economy from the strong unions that defend only the richest workers. All these actions will allow Israel’s economy to boom.”

Last month, while Israel’s nurses were on strike, protesting their miserable wages (an RN with decades of seniority earns less than $35 thousand a year), the media revealed that the longshoremen’s union members were averaging $76 thousand, an astonishing salary for manual laborers.

The longshoremen in Israel have the same feisty reputation as, say, the Teamsters in America. I asked Bennett what he would do to break their monopoly.

“What you have to do is create competition,” Bennett said. “And then they’ll be much more efficient and that will reduce the cost of all our products. Because everything is way too expensive in Israel.”

“Now, if you do that – they’ll fight you,” he continues. “So we need to communicate with the Israeli people, explain the problem. Unfortunately, Netanyahu did not follow through on that, nor will Shelly Yachimovich ever do it, because they elected her. The Jewish Home will strive to be a major influence in freeing up the economy.”

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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19 Responses to “Naftali Bennett: Stop US Aid, Slash Israel’s Military Budget”

  1. typo to fix: brothers.

  2. Tim Upham says:

    I am perplexed. If Naftali Bennett is seeking the annexation of the West Bank, and increased Israeli settlement, is that not going to increase American aid and Israel's military budget.

  3. Bennett seems like a real schmuck.

  4. Anonymous says:

    People who make $500 million in the private sector are not schmuks. How much have you earned? How many jobs have you created? How much have you given to charity?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Israel badly needs the economic reforms Bennett describes. There are so many vestiges of Labor Socialism which are holding the country back. Everyone likes to brag about what an "economic miracle" Israel is but Singapore has a smaller population, no land, no natural resources but still has a higher GDP than Israel… which means the average Singaporean has a higher per capita income than the average Israeli. Another example to follow would be Switzerland- a nation of comparable size to Israel has nearly 3X the GDP. How did they do this?- by embracing the market system. I maintain Israel is underperforming economically. When you're using Egypt or Syria or Jordan or Lebanon as a point of comparison then of course Israel looks prosperous! If you want Israel to be stronger, then an extra $50-100 billion added to its GDP would go much farther than US aid or an ineffective bombing campaign on Iran. Tapping into Israel's considerable oil reserves would be a good place to start.

  6. Hi Winky. It has been a long time. Hope you and the family are all well. I will be in Israel at the end of this week, Fran (Holliswood neighbor)

  7. Hi Winky. It has been a long time. Hope you and the family are all well. I will be in Israel at the end of this week, Fran (Holliswood neighbor)

  8. A person's wealth does not make him politically smart. He may be a good business man, but his views on politics are idiotic. George Soros is wealthy, too, but he's done horrible things in his life like helping the Nazis, so wealth doesn't mean anything to me. What matters to me is emotional intelligence and heroics like those who resisted the Nazis. My grandfather didn't make a lot of money but he worked hard and taught me a lot. That's a man I respect. My real heroes are the people that fight for the Jewish state, who are bravely in the IDF who've sacrificed for their country. Not how much money you make.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I'll concede that George Soros has appalling views and does a lot of damage with his money. Naftali Bennett does have an amateur-streak (and I am not happy about his comments on continuing IDF service exemptions for yeshiva students) but one of Israel's problems is its constant recycling of its political "talent." I hope he has a successful political career and a short one. I don't want to see him recycled like Barak, Bibi, Peres, Livni, Deri, (probably Olmert in the next election) and others I'm sure I'm missing.

  10. I understand, but his views believing that Obama has Israel's back and that he believes that Obama's position on IRan is incredibly naive. So who cares how much money he makes, his positions on foreign policy regarding is dangerously idiotic. We need new talent but surely we can do better than Bennett.

  11. Itt is refreshing to read Naftali Bennett's position. It is congruent with Otsma Israel.His idea on US money(which is mostly spent in USA} should be studied.

  12. Jane Smith says:

    Israelis had better pray to God that Mr. Bennett doesn't become Prime Minister someday. Obama is NOT watching Israeli's back. Only a naive fool believes that.

  13. Jane Smith says:

    Israelis had better pray to God that Mr. Bennett doesn't become Prime Minister someday. Obama is NOT watching Israeli's back. Only a naive fool believes that.

  14. David Weiser says:

    Correction, Singapore has a smaller GDP. In 2011, it was $239 billion for Singapore and $242 billion for Israel.

    Aside from that, you're right. Israel has the potential to be a true economic powerhouse. Two things are about to spike Israel's GDP dramatically: The increasing participation of Arabs and Haredim in the workforce, and the discovery of the gas fields.

    If you strip away the socialism, and take into account Israel's rapidly-growing population (which will likely surpass 10 million during this decade), then Israel's GDP will skyrocket. And as the country's population grows, you could even see it enter the trillion-dollar club (if Australia with a population of 20 million can have a trillion-dollar GDP, whose to say a resource-rich Israel with, say, 15 million can't do the same?).

  15. Jacob Baram says:

    @ Andrew Schiff – well Bennett does and has done that too- as a soldier and then commander in the most elite unit of the IDF. Thats 2 for 2 Andrew with a few RBI to boot.

  16. Back to my original point, which is the fact that he is politically naive. All his accomplishments are fine but his opinion is not dealing with reality. Ok, so he was a great soldier, not every soldier is a good leader. His opinions on Obama. I appreciate your baseball reference but you did read my initial comments about his political beliefs.

  17. I get the feeling when reading his comments regarding Obama that they were merely "nice talk" and that he didn't truly trust him. I hope that is the case because Obama and his choices for cabinet members is showing clearly his plans to use these people to further alienate Israel and then blame it on his cabinet. He has an evil agenda for America and Israel and I pray people wake up before it is too late. Unfortunately for us it appears Obama has more people fooled than any other official in our history.

  18. Melissa, you are very smart!

  19. Liad Bar-el says:

    Bennett is another right winger waiting to turn leftist as soon as he's elected. Bennett left Yesha after supporting Livni instead of Bibi; so, expect him to turn to the other side after the election. Power to Israel seems to be the only honest party running in this election.

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