Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday night banned Habayit Hayehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich from a debate over the evacuation of the Amona community in Samaria because of things Smotrich said about the PM in a major interview he had given the Ha’aretz weekend supplement, Army Radio reported Sunday.
Speaking to Ha’aretz reporter Ravit Hecht, MK Smotrich said, “Unfortunately, Netanyahu is not a rightwinger,” and added that “Apparently, had Netanyahu been in charge instead of Ben Gurion, we would not have had a state. Ben Gurion had courage, he established a state against all odds.”
The meeting included Prime Minister Netanyahu, Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, and AG Avichai Mandelblit, and focused on the Amona issue and the Arrangement Act which will be submitted for a Knesset vote Monday. The meeting ended without concrete results and the participants agreed to meet again on Sunday.
Speaking to Army Radio Sunday morning, Smotrich confirmed his removal from the meeting, adding, “If the prime minister’s feelings were hurt I’m prepared to apologize.”
Smotrich relates how he had driven for an hour and a half from home Saturday night to get to the meeting. “The prime minister refused to let me into the room. He asked that I not come in. I was led to believe that he didn’t love some of the things I said in my Ha’aretz interview.”
In his own defense, Smotrich said, “I didn’t initiate public criticism of the prime minister, I merely answered truthfully the questions I was asked and didn’t blur our disputes with him.”
Smotrich clarified that he feels “a great deal of respect for the prime minister,” adding, “I’m a young man in the system and he is an older man with a great del of experience, and he is the prime minister of all of us.” Nevertheless, Smotrich reiterated, “it’s no secret we have ideological disagreements with him.”
As to his comparison between Netanyahu and Ben Gurion, Smotrich stated he was ready to apologize, but commenting that “if anyone who has a disagreement with the prime minister loses the ability to work with him in a useful manner, I believe we have a big problem.”