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The Bibi-Bennett Dance

Do they want to work with each other?

Adam Chandler
January 14, 2013
Naftali Bennett(Getty)
Naftali Bennett(Getty)

First, if you haven’t read Liel Leibovitz’s profile of Naftali Bennett on Tablet today, you ought to. David Remnick has a ten-pager on the man over at the New Yorker today, but not only does Liel get the story right, he does it in so many less words.

In the context of recently developing election news in Israel, it appears that Bennett is now making his pitch to join Netanyahu’s coalition:

“We will be responsible partners,” Bennett told the reporters. “We’re not coming along to break up a government two months after we join it. We’re not coming along to topple a right-wing government over every little thing. As long as no decision is made to hand over territory, we have no reason to leave the government. On the contrary, we are coming in with a broad, mature, statesmanlike view, not a right-wing, sectorial one. Our passion, what motivates us, is the good of the entire nation of Israel, and that is what will guide us in the government. We have come to work.”

Bennett won’t say what he will do if a court orders the evacuation of a large West Bank outpost or if Israel and the Palestinians resume peace talks. But his comments indicate that as long as any possible negotiations don’t lead to any particular action, he won’t be the one to bring down a right-wing government.

What a mensch! And what a pitch! Just promise that you won’t ever make a peace deal and you’ve got me–a loyal friend and partner.

Meanwhile, it’s also being reported today that Netanyahu is keen on a coalition made up of a center-left constitution. This would keep Bennett as an opposition figure and free Bibi up to make some potentially unpopular budget cuts much more easily.

…an unnamed Likud source was quoted in Maariv saying Netanyahu will actually turn to parties on the center and left of the political spectrum to create a new government, assuming Likud-Beytenu garners at least 38 seats.

The source said the move would be designed to help the new government pass a budget, a process that Likud fears could get bogged down if the coalition is beholden to religious parties.

“Netanyahu will prefer to give up the ultra-Orthodox parties, mostly because of the economic policies he will need to bring in, that will include extremely harsh cutbacks,” a Likud source said. “With the ultra-Orthodox he would not be able to reach an agreement.”

Presumably, if the center-left isn’t receptive to Netanyahu–Labor’s Shelly Yachimovich (subject of a profile by Michael Cohen) has already said she won’t join a coalition–then Netanyahu would bank right and hit up Bennett and some of the religious parties to join his government…which is weird if you think about it. So maybe don’t?

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.