“Something bad is happening to us from the inside,” Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett told a press conference on Monday morning. Which is why he is willing to risk his own political future to remain in government and force Prime Minister Netanyahu to live up to his commitment “to change course, lead a revolution in the security apparatus, in order to change the direction of the past ten years in the direction of regaining power.”
“The State of Israel is in a crisis of faith over our security policy, and the problem isn’t our enemy,” Bennett said, noting that “cruel enemies are nothing new to us.”
Bennett continued: “For quite a few years now, including the last decade of Netanyahu-led governments, the State of Israel has stopped winning.”
Interjecting a personal note, Bennett said, “I saw this with my own eyes during the Second Lebanon War, as commander of a force in the western front in southern Lebanon. I saw the confusion, saw the lack of certainty, saw the indecision, saw the absence of spirit. I also lost my good friend, Lieutenant Colonel Emanuel Moreno, at the end of the war. It was because of that war that I left the high-tech I loved so much and entered politics.”
Speaking for the majority of Israelis, Bennett said: “We impose one restraint after another on our warriors. Legal restraints and perceptual restraints. Our fighters are more afraid of the military advocate than of [supreme political leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip] Yehia Sinwar. From defeating the enemy we have moved to containing the enemy. Values that were once clear are suddenly in doubt.”
Referring to last week’s feeble campaign in Gaza, Bennett said: “Following the firing of more than 530 Hamas rockets at Israeli communities and a missile at a bus with soldiers, we suddenly tell ourselves that everything is all right and that Hamas is as dismayed as it has ever been.”
“When any illegally constructed balcony in Israel is destroyed within days, the Israeli government is in a panic, afraid to evacuate an illegal Arab outpost—Khan al-Ahmar—despite all the favorable High Court rulings, fearing what they would say about us in Europe, what they would do to us in The Hague,” Bennett said.
“Common sense gave way to legal arguments,” the Habayit Hayehudi chairman said. “The systems have become heavy, cumbersome and mediocre. The murderers of Israelis collect before our eyes monthly salaries to the tune of 15,000 shekel ($4,000). Their homes are not destroyed, their families receive honor and allowances while we stand by and do nothing to stop it. It takes us long months to demolish a terrorist’s home and even then we only destroy half a room or seal it. As if the terrorist had taken such care of the family of his victim.”
“At this moment there are 102 homes belonging to terrorists which the IDF has measured, and lack the spirit and the strength to destroy them,” Bennett said.
According to Bennett, “Hamas and Hezbollah are becoming more brazen every day, because they believe we are afraid to confront them. What the prime minister calls ‘responsibility’ is sometimes interpreted by our enemies as hesitation and the line between the two is thin.”
“The ship of security of the State of Israel has been sailing in the wrong direction in the past decade,” Bennett stressed, “and the most dangerous thing for the State of Israel would be that we begin to think that there is no solution to terrorism, to terrorists, to missiles. That there is nothing to be done – when there is something to be done.”
He added: “When Israel wants to win, we will start winning again. […] It is possible to take a ship that has sailed in the wrong direction and change its entire path. We came to politics in order to present an alternative, to replace hesitation with might, fatigue with initiative, confusion with faith.”
At this point, close to four-fifths of his speech, most listeners expected Naftali Bennett to announce that since he and his party are no longer able to pursue their defense goals under the current PM, they are walking and urging the same PM to announce a date for new elections. His actual statement was more nuanced and, possibly, inspired.
“After the previous defense minister had failed miserably and abandoned the battlefield, I wanted to do the exact opposite, to take responsibility at a difficult moment, to stand up despite the difficulties we all knows,” Bennett said. “In our conversation on Friday, I made it clear to the Prime Minister that mine was by no means an ultimatum, and I appreciated his statement that he considered me a worthy candidate for the post of defense minister. But Netanyahu then decided, for his own reasons, take the job for himself.”
“In his speech, he promised the Israeli public to ‘change course, lead a revolution in the security apparatus, in order to change the direction of the past ten years in the direction of regaining power,'” Bennett said, suggesting: “If the government takes the right path and act as a true rightwing government – it’s worth a try. The ball is in the prime minister’s court.”
At which point Bennett outlined his party’s strategy for the next few weeks or months, essentially expecting Netanyahu to be the author of Habayit Hayehudi’s campaign message: “In the coming weeks, the promised security revolution will be put to the test,” Bennett said. “Will we be freed from the feeble policy vis-à-vis Hamas? Will we finally get out of our panic mode and turn Khan al-Ahmar? Will it become not worthwhile to murder Jews in Israel?”
“The test will be in deeds, not words,” the Habayit Hayehudi chairman announced. “The public has heard enough words.”
Of course, he added, “we will not stand by as spectators up in the gallery examining the prime minister, but will instead do our best to help.”
“I must also say that at this point I will return with great joy and great love to lead the education of the children of Israel,” he concluded.