(JNi.media) Bayit Yehudi Chairman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday night handed cabinet secretary Avihai Mandelblatt his resignation from the government and will return to serve as a member of Knesset—following which he will be reappointed to his original governmental posts. A collateral effect of Bennett’s resignation is that his deputy, MK Meir Porush (UTJ) also stops his service at the Ministry of Education, since by law the deputy minister’s tenure is stopped as soon as the minister has resigned. Bennett’s letter of resignation was submitted at 10:41 PM Wednesday, which means that the resignation will only go into effect on Friday night. It also means that Avi Wortzman, who was next in line to become a Bayit Yehudi MK following the resignation of MK Yinon Magal over sex harassment charges, will not be sworn in as a member of Knesset.
Bennett was the one who forced Netanyahu to make the “Norwegian law” a foundation of the coalition agreement, and so far has been the only minister to use it, immediately after its approval. The law allows each party in the coalition to appoint a Knesset member in place of a minister or deputy minister from its ranks, who agrees to resign from the Knesset and clear the spot. The law also provides that should the same minister end his tenure in government, they may return to their Knesset seat, and the last MK on the list will have to end his or her term.
After the Bayit Yehudi party crashed in the last election from 11 to eight seats, Bennett decided to give up his seat to make room for Shuli Mualem, who ranked ninth on the faction’s list and remained outside the Knesset. With MK Magal leaving, Bennett decided to take advantage of the opportunity to take back his seat without firing anyone.
It is not clear what caused Bennett to make his decision. The national-religious website Srugim speculated that Bennett decided to return and serve as an MK to Keep Wortzman out, or, should Wortzman refuse to become an MK, to block the next member in line, Nir Orbach, from entering the Knesset. Bennett sees himself as a serious candidate for prime minister in the not too distant future, which is why he tried throughout the election campaign to add as many secular Israelis to his list as he could. With the secular Magal gone, replacing him with the religious Wortzman or Orbach would set things back to the days when the NRP was a four-member religious faction with nothing but men in yarmulkes—not the majority winning mix in Israel, even in right-wing Israel. So Bennett literally body blocked the next religious guy from coming in. It’s a plausible theory.JNi.Media