Naftali Bennett blinked first. In case you’re not sick and tired yet of this fictitious melodrama, what started with Prime Minister Netanyahu suggesting that the 100,000 or so Israeli citizens living in Judea and Samaria outside the “cluster of settlements” (this so sounds like the “pale of settlement,” where the Jews were ghettoized under Czarist rule in the 1800s) could stay where they are, with a Palestinian citizenship.
It was a cute idea, intended to embarrass the Palestinians by showing them up as racists and antisemites, because they obviously were going to go bananas over the proposal. But then Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett decided to take a ride on this duck and condemned the idea and the guy who announced it, his superior in the government, aka the prime minister.
So Bibi, or, more accurately, Sara Netanyahu, decided that the ploy that was going to give Mahmoud Abbas et al a bloody nose could just as well be used on Bennett, who has remained in the Netanyahus’ dog house for almost a decade now.
In an injured tone, the Prime Minister’s office demanded that Bennett apologize, or else be fired “even before next Sunday’s cabinet meeting.”
Nobody thought this was going to happen. Everybody knew the next scene would be a Bennett apology, maybe not heartfelt, maybe just the tacit kind, but Bennett was going to bow, kiss the ring, take a fruit from the bowl on the conference table and walk away.
Still, with so many participants in these government-produced dramas, there was always a chance for a mishap, leading to a full blown crisis – it was worth watching. But it ended in the predictable fashion: Bennett said he never intended to hurt the prime minister’s feelings, it wasn’t personal, it was only ideological differences.
These two men and their wives hate each other so much, that by now no one remembers any more the original story, with the settlers and the Palestinian citizenship, and the country is focused on the bloody nose of the Minister of the Economy and of Religious services, and of Jerusalem and Hasbara (which is Israeli for propaganda). Honest, Bennett is really the minister of all those ministries.
But while Sara Netanyahu is in charge of never forgetting and never forgiving, Gilat Bennett told her husband, according to Maariv, “You be the responsible adult and take care of this thing.” It was a couple of hours before Bennett read his apology before a conference of Religious Zionist executives on the shores of the Dead Sea.
Each side claimed victory after the fact, and both used the adult versus child metaphor. Netanyahu proved that he’s in charge, but Bennett also delivered a point, with a huge wink at Bibi’s own right wing, inside his Likud party.
Deputy Knesset Speaker Moshe Feiglin said the fist fight between Bibi and Bennett was “ridiculous,” adding, “the question is not who insulted whom, and who has to apologize, but the negotiations. [top negotiator Tzipi] Livni has already said there would be a discussion of Jerusalem, and I suggest that Netanyahu, instead of fighting with Bennett and create a smokescreen, come out and clear the smoke.”
Rabbi Chaim Navon, who runs one of the more active and original Facebook pages on Jewish issues, pointed to the fact that Netanyahu’s circle was saying the entire Palestinian citizenship idea was only intended to show up the Palestinians for their stubbornness.
“How very cleaver,” Rabbi Navon quipped. “We bring up yet another concession, the Palestinians refuse, for ten minutes we’re getting slapped on the back, but then the world gets used to the idea and makes it the self-evident foundation of the next phase of negotiations. Did the Netanyahu concession in his Bar-Ilan speech improve our international situation? It did the opposite.”