The Jewish Home leader says Israel must retain the West Bank ‘forever,’ should do more for its Arab community, cannot allow Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount
BY DAVID HOROVITZ, TOI
Naftali Bennett has a bit of a cold when he sits down for an interview with The Times of Israel in his Knesset office on Monday. He may have caught it a day earlier, when he led a solidarity run through central Tel Aviv — designed to show that the streets were safe, even with Friday’s Dizengoff Street killer still on the loose.
Education Minister Bennett’s athletic response to the Dizengoff attack, which was allegedly perpetrated by Arab-Israeli Nashat Milhem, made for quite a contrast with that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who came to the scene of the crime on Saturday night and issued a bitter denunciation of lawlessness, disloyalty and incitement against Israel within Arab-Israeli society. And in our interview, Bennett was strikingly upbeat about Israeli Arabs. “Israeli-Arab society is in a very positive trend,” he said, calling Friday’s attack “an anomaly” and stressing that the Israeli-Arab “mainstream wants to be part of Israeli society.”
In a conversation that covered Palestinian terrorism but began with Jewish terrorism, he was also strikingly critical of the radical fringe of Jewish extremists from whose ranks the alleged Duma murderer sprang.
He warned of the dangers posed by a fringe of Jewish “anarchists” with a radical ideology who seek to destroy the State of Israel and “bring the world (down) upon us. It’s the antithesis of the religious Zionist ideology which sees the state as something almost sacred.”
The Jewish Home party leader, whose ministerial colleague Uri Ariel went to the Temple Mount before last Rosh Hashanah and was filmed saying a short prayer there, firmly rejected any talk of changing the status quo at the Mount, even though he said that Jews are discriminated against in not being allowed to pray there. “In a perfect world, there would be freedom of religion and freedom for all religions to exercise their religion everywhere,” he said. “Right now, we have to maintain the status quo. We have to use common sense.”
He also declared that Israel must permanently maintain overall control of the West Bank. “Anyone who suggests that Israel can somehow defend itself without retaining Judea and Samaria forever is out of his mind.”
The interview was conducted in English (which Bennett, the child of American immigrants, speaks fluently):
The Times of Israel: The Duma murder case (in which three members of the Dawabsha family were killed in a firebombing by an alleged Jewish terrorist) is immensely troubling. And watching film of that “hate wedding,” you see that this is not just a handful of people with that kind of mindset. How troubled are you by a) the killing and b) the wider phenomenon of an extremist fringe?
Naftali Bennett: First of all, I am troubled. But I do want to say, it is a fringe. It is.
The actual ring is in the single figures, the people around it are …read more