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Cynical and frightened — why Netanyahu appointed Bennett as Defense Minister

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Benjamin Netanyahu surprised an exhausted and apathetic nation by announcing that, come Sunday, he will appoint his longtime foe, Naftali Bennett of (some amoebic rightwing party, they keep changing names), as Defense Minister. Bennett won’t enjoy the office, currently held by Netanyahu, for long: The deal says he will only hold it until a new government is formed. As an aside, Bennett’s (some amoebic rightwing party), with three seats, will be absorbed within Likud until the next elections.

Next elections are likely to be announced within four weeks.

And legal scholars already mentioned that, for arcane reasons, the appointment is likely illegal; but Netanyahu’s zombie government has already crossed so many lines when it comes to the status of provisional governments, the legal system will probably sigh and approve it anyway.

Netanyahu has a long and dirty history of hatred towards Bennett. The latter used to be one of Netanyahu’s senior aides during Ehud Olmert’s government, from 2006 until 2008. They had a spectacular falling out, details of which are not all clear. What is clear is that Netanyahu was paying Bennett (and Ayelet Shaked, his Sancho Panza) black money, out of his own account, without receipts; the prime minister’s wife, Sara, famously prone to tantrums, found out, and a screaming match ensued. Supposedly she blamed Netanyahu for wasting the royal couple’s inheritance on Bennett and Shaked. Bennett would later say that he went a “terror course” under Sara Netanyahu.

This didn’t end there. When Shaked was Justice Minister, she was pointedly refused a place on the PM’s plane, and had to make her own travel arrangements. One of the scandals involving Netanyahu (Case 4000, per the Israeli Attorney General) shows that Netanyahu pressured a media oligarch, Shaul Aluvich, to have his main news site, Walla!, publish dirt on Bennett’s wife, Gilat. Specifically, that Gilat (who is not religious) worked as a chef at a non-kosher restaurant. This was supposed to undercut Bennett’s position as leader of the Jewish Home party. Aluvich also had defamatory (and likely incorrect) information published about Bennett’s father, at Netanyahu’s behest. And just after the April elections, when Bennett and Shaked’s party failed to meet the electoral threshhold, and they were no longer Members of the Knesset, Netanyahu fired them from his outgoing government. Because it’s always better to kick them when they’re down, supposedly.

Given this history of venom and hatred, why did Netanyahu decide to elevate Bennett to the latter’s life-long ambition, the Defense Ministry? Why do so during a provisional government, which is barely legally allowed to wipe its own nose?

Because Benny Gantz still has some two weeks as the presumptive Prime Minister, given the mandate to form a new government by the Israeli president, and Bennett has been cunning enough to meet with him. By so doing, he signaled Netanyahu he just might jump over to Gantz.

I am reliably informed that the IDF will announce its new Flying Pigs Wing before Bennett pulls this Gantz schtick, which would forever ruin him among his base. It is also clear that Gantz has only one way ahead: a minority government, supported by Liberman and the Joint List from outside. Creating such a government would be extremely difficult as it is; adding Bennett and Shaked, notorious Palestinian-haters, to the mix would make an already-unstable mix into an explosive compound.

Bennett had nothing to give Gantz – but he could rattle Netanyahu. That’s the common wisdom, anyway: That Netanyahu is chickenshit enough to fall for Bennett’s trick, enough to give Bennett the Defense Ministry.

For a few weeks anyway. After which, once we go to elections again, Bennett will have to convince the voters he’s actually worth anything. Bennett will not be able to do much, and certainly not change policy in any meaningful way; though he is likely to delay the removal of an illegal outpost here and there. Though the army has done its best to avoid doing so anyway; and Netanyahu has followed that policy for the past year.

There may be a darker element, though. Netanyahu has been speaking of war with Iran time and again recently, going to the point of saying “this isn’t just a Netanyahu spin, it’s real”. He may need a Defense Minister at his side. Preferably, one to back him up when he wants to delay the elections and, if all else fails, to hold the bag when the war goes catastrophically wrong.

Fun times.

Yossi Gurvitz

Yossi Gurvitz is a journalist and a blogger, and has covered the occupation extensively.

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7 Responses

  1. Misterioso on November 9, 2019, 8:57 am


    “Enfeebled Israel lobby strikes back on military aid”
    The Electronic Intifada, Nov. 6/19, by Michael F. Brown.

    “Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), is furious with US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

    “Sanders has demonstrated the nerve to call not just for conditioning military aid to Israel, but for sending some of it – in the form of humanitarian aid – to Palestinians in Gaza living under Israeli siege and enduring the consequences of decades of dispossession.

    “The ZOA leader can’t stand the idea.

    “Klein claimed in late October on Twitter that Sanders is ‘an anti-Semitic Israelophobe who insanely demands taking defense money from Israel.’

    “He, along with many others, then falsely maintained that Sanders wants to give that money to Hamas.

    “There’s not an iota of evidence for Klein’s claim. US aid money could readily be directed through non-governmental organizations to people needing humanitarian assistance in Gaza.

    “Moving from false rhetoric to vicious, Klein then added that Sanders has ‘learned nothing from the lessons of the Holocaust during his 79 years on earth.’

    “In fact, Sanders, who is 78, has spoken movingly about his father’s family being ‘wiped out by Hitler in the Holocaust’ and has explicitly written, ‘We vow never to forget the lessons of that tragedy and to stand up to all forms of hate.’

    “Klein, for his part, has also spoken powerfully against the horrors of the Holocaust against Jews, other groups and his own family. He has asserted his organization will ‘speak out against prejudice, and irrational hatred and violence against any people in all corners of the world.’

    “Yet, he has built a career out of vilifying Palestinians and Arabs in strongly racist language.

    “Klein even seems to think he and a right-wing Twitter friend get to make the rules on what sort of Jews are really Jews. Picking up on a response to his tweet against Sanders, Klein was the one person as of publication to retweet a claim from ‘Sam’ that Sanders is ‘a Jew genetically, but it ends there. That’s the worst kind.’

    “This sort of anti-Semitism presumably will do very little to lead Republicans to think twice about inviting Klein back to testify on Capitol Hill.

    “For all those piling on to Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib for how they voice concerns about the lack of equal rights for Palestinians and the role of the Israel lobby in promoting discrimination against Palestinians, there hasn’t been a peep against Klein for his outburst.

    “Many are so busy scouring social media for signs of anti-Semitism from the left that they fail to take note when a member of the Israel lobby tweets outrageous slurs against a man who would be the first Jewish president of the United States — and is the most outspoken candidate on behalf of the rights of Palestinians.

    Policy fight
    “Sanders voiced the strongest support of any candidate for conditioning US military aid to Israel when he spoke last week at J Street’s annual conference.

    “But so have candidates Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and (minimally) Julian Castro, notwithstanding profound limitations in their perspectives on how to advance Palestinian rights.

    “With Sanders leading the way, Democratic candidates are at long last engaging the party in a fight over US military aid to Israel following over 50 years of occupation and 70 years of dispossession of Palestinians.

    “Pushback against these nascent efforts did not take long to emerge.

    “Joe Biden, for months the Democratic presidential front-runner, is hitting back and arguing for business as usual.

    “The Democratic establishment favorite, Biden told Sabrina Siddiqui of The Wall Street Journal that leveraging military aid to Israel would be ‘absolutely outrageous’ and a ‘gigantic mistake.’

    “He is not alone in defending an arrangement that for decades has contributed to the ongoing subjugation of Palestinians.

    “Forward opinion editor Batya Ungar-Sargon retweeted a lengthy Twitter thread from Dan Shapiro, an Obama administration ambassador to Israel.

    “Touting his commentary as a ‘really important thread,’ she claimed Shapiro ‘corrects some of the misinformation out there about aid to Israel.’

    “In fact, Shapiro simply argues for more of the same when he writes: ‘The US has provided Israel with military assistance for decades’ before adding that the aid ‘reflects both a moral commitment between allies and a shared strategic interest.’

    “He ignores the immorality of bombing Palestinian civilians with American weaponry when he asserts that ‘Much of the assistance dollars flow back to the US economy, by funding Israeli purchases of major US-origin military systems like F-15s, F-16s, F-35s, helicopters and other air platforms, munitions, etc.’

    “Nevertheless, and despite the protestations of Biden, Shapiro and Bungar-Sargon, Democrats such as Sanders are now seeking to move the party away from long-existing policies that deny Palestinians their rights. Democratic politicians questioning aid to Israel over Gaza, settlements and/or annexation are showing they are attuned to change at the grassroots level.

    “A September poll from Data for Progress found that 41 percent of Democrats ‘strongly support’ the idea of ‘reducing military aid to Israel based on human rights violations’ and another 22 percent of Democrats ‘somewhat support’ this approach.

    “And Democratic Majority for Israel has shown that in this fight it favors the regressive stance of Biden.

    “Yet the organization seems incapable of stopping the Democratic rush for the door. The antiquated tendency to show greater concern for protecting military aid than ending myriad Israeli injustices against Palestinians simply doesn’t fly with progressive Democrats.”

  2. larspil on November 9, 2019, 9:26 am

    Is Mr. Bennet’s first name derived from the chemical substance naphtalene?

    According to Wiki it’s a very simple molecule, and:

    “Exposure to large amounts of naphthalene may cause confusion, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, blood in the urine, and jaundice (yellow coloration of the skin due to dysfunction of the liver)”

    • echinococcus on November 9, 2019, 5:36 pm

      Unfortunately, Larspil, “naphthaline” was created in 1821 by John Kidd (1775-1851), based on the noun “naphtha” (Latin) that means, as we all know, burning fuel derived from tars or various petroleum products. Unrelated to the mythical Naptâlî = ‘My Struggle’ , mentioned in Genesis, founder of the tribe of the same name.

      The toxicity of at least this Naphtali is far superior to that of either naphtha or naphtaline, as is his incendiary potential.

    • Mooser on November 11, 2019, 12:26 pm

      “Exposure to large amounts… may cause confusion, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, blood in the urine, and jaundice (yellow coloration of the skin due to dysfunction of the liver)”

      Oh when somebody produces those symptoms, we usually call him “Manny”

  3. annie on November 9, 2019, 5:06 pm

    “The deal says he will only hold it until a new government is formed.”

    that could take months if they call a new election. long enough for a war. scary.

  4. James Canning on November 9, 2019, 6:41 pm

    I think Netanyahu is more than ready to visit yet another catastrophe on the American taxpayers, with an idiotic war with Iran.

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