The battles among Netanyahu’s cabinet ministers continue: Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s party is furious at Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s remarks Monday morning, suggesting that “a politician who takes a ride on the back of the chief of staff’s head is disgusting.” The comment followed a report on Channel 2 News Sunday night on a confrontation between Bennett and Chief of Staff Eizenkot on whether or not the IDF should kill Arab children who launch firebomb kites and balloons into Israel.
“Liberman is a weak, confused and transparent defense minister,” sources in Habayit Hayehudi told the media Monday, recommending that the DM “focus on eradicating terrorism in the south,” instead of leaking quotes from the cabinet meeting and then commenting on them.
“Bennett asked the prime minister to call for a polygraph test to find the source of Sunday’s leak, and he (Bennett) is ready to be the first to report for the test. The question is whether Liberman will be the second,” the same Habayit Hayehudi sources said.
Bennett told Army Radio on Monday: “I was not the source of the leak from the cabinet.” Regarding his dispute with Eizenkot, Bennett said: “We’ve merited an excellent chief of staff, even if there are disagreements sometimes, it’s legitimate. Commanders have to express their opinions – and in the end obey the orders of the political echelon.”
Liberman attacked Bennett Monday morning – without mentioning him by name. Speaking to Ynet, the Defense Minister said, “A politician who takes a ride on the back of the chief of staff – this is the most disgusting thing.”
“Taking a ride on the back of the chief of staff means that this person has no red lines, and I do not think we should even address that,” Liberman said. He then explained that “in the reality of the State of Israel, a diverse society with many parties, factions and organizations, before you go for a military move, a war, you must rely on a broad consensus, only with a broad national consensus. That was the difference between the Six-Day War and the first Lebanon War. Therefore, here too, I think everyone understands that the government has done everything, and if Hamas continues, we will make decisions.”
The leaked exchange between Bennett and Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot had to do with the lack of military response to the firebomb kite and balloon launchers.
Bennett asked: “Why not shoot anyone who fires aerial weapons at our communities, including at the terror cells? There is no legal impediment. Why shoot near and not at them? They are terrorists in every respect.”
Eizenkot replied: “I do not think that shooting boys and children who are sometimes the ones who launch those balloons and kites is a correct move.”
Bennett persisted: “And if this is an adult who is identified as an adult?”
“Are you are proposing to drop a bomb from an airplane on the launching squads of kites and balloons?” Eizenkot asked, and was answered in the affirmative.
To which Eizenkot said: “This contradicts my operational and moral position.”
A senior government official on Monday told Channel 2 News that Bennett is an opportunist who changes his mind according to public opinion. Bennett’s circle responded that if not for the minister’s pressure, nothing would have changed – referring to the fact that the IDF has finally remembered it was an army dedicated to defending Israel, and started shooting at those flying arson squads.