Bennett to Likud hecklers: Tone of your screams is as loud as your failure

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“The loud tone of the screams is the same as the failure to govern during your term in office,” Bennett snapped back at the Likud members.

-By GIL HOFFMAN, JERUSALEM POST STAFF

Incoming Prime Minister Naftali Bennett addresses the Knesset plenum ahead of swearing in of new government.(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Incoming prime minister Naftali Bennett was defiant on the Knesset podium on Sunday as he presented his new government’s ministers and guidelines in an address in the plenum as MKs who will now be in opposition heckled him persistently.

From the moment Bennett began his speech introducing his government, Religious Zionist Party head Bezalel Smotrich and other MKs shouted “Shame” and waved posters of victims of terror. They were removed from the plenum.

“I am proud that I can sit in a government with people with very different views,” Bennett told his hecklers in the Knesset plenum, saying that they seemed to have a problem with losing power.

Religious Zionist Party MKs Bezalel Smotrich, Itamar Ben-Gvir and Orit Struck were all taken out of the Knesset plenum due to their comments, though several Likud and Religious Zionist MKs continued interrupting the speech throughout.

As Bennett struggled to speak, his urges for patience and unity between the people of Israel drowned out by the screams of his rival MKs, his children began making heart signs with their hands in support of their father.

Bennett called on all sides of the political spectrum to display restraint. He complained that in recent years, Israel had stopped being managed as a country.

“The loud tone of the screams is the same as the failure to govern during your term in office,” Bennett snapped back at the Likud members.

Shas and United Torah Judaism MKs heckled Bennett, calling him a liar and a cheat. But Bennett promised to help the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) sector, even though its MKs would not be part of his government. He pledged to build a new haredi city for the sector’s growing population.

After another ten minutes of chaos, Likud MK May Golan. Shas MK Moshe Abutbul and United Torah Judaism MK Yitzhak Pindrus were also removed from the plenum for their protests.

Labor MK Ram Shefa tweeted a video of the chaos, calling it an “embarrassment by the Religious Zionist Party” and adding “you will not stop us, change is on the way.”

In the address, Bennett said his government would prevent the nuclearization of Iran and would not permit rocket fire on Isaeli citizens from the Gaza Strip. Bennett thanked the administration of US President Joe Biden for its support during the war in Gaza and pledged to maintain bipartisan support in the US.

Bennett made a point of starting his address by praising outgoing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his hard work over the years for the State of Israel and his wife, Sara, for her dedication. He said Netanyahu deserved credit for his outreach to Ra’am (United Arab List) head Mansour Abbas. The new government would take unprecedented steps to reach out to the Arab sector, Bennett.

“I’m skipping the speech I planned to deliver today because I’m here to say one thing – to ask for forgiveness from my mother,” Incoming Foreign Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid said during his own speech.

“My mother is 86 years old and we don’t ask her to come to Jerusalem lightly but we did it because I assumed that you would be able to get over yourselves and behave with statesmanship at this moment and she would see a smooth transition of government,” Lapid said

“When she was born there was no State of Israel, Tel Aviv was a small town of 30,000 people and we didn’t have a parliament. I wanted her to be proud of the democratic process in Israel. Instead she, along with every citizen of Israel, is ashamed of you and remembers clearly why it’s time to replace you,” he concluded

A crisis was avoided earlier, when Ra’am MK Saeed Alharomi said he would vote in support of the new government, following a threat to not vote for it.

Ra’am head Mansour Abbas told reporters at the Knesset that “nothing” can interfere with the swearing in of the new government Sunday night, adding that “we will all vote in favor of the government.”

In return for his support of the new coalition, Alharomi demanded that a clause in the coalition agreement regarding illegal construction in the Negev be cancelled.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Interior Minister Arye Deri pressured Alharomi and offered him assurances, including on the topic of the Kaminitz Law that addresses illegal construction, in an attempt to get him to vote against the government.

Netanyahu would remain in power if the prospective new coalition’s razor-thin majority were to lose the support of even one MK in a vote of confidence in the Knesset. If Alharomi abstains in the confidence vote, Joint List MKs could come to its rescue and vote in favor.

The Likud responded that it would be shameful if the government were formed through the backing of MKs who support terrorists and do not recognize Israel as a Jewish-democratic state.

While outgoing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke, MKs in the coalition being formed were completely silent, making a point of showing him respect. The only MKs who heckled him were from the Joint List, until Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz recalled the criminal charges against Netanyahu near the end of the address.

“We will go to the opposition with our heads held high until we topple the government,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu said he was speaking for the millions of voters of Likud and its satellite parties. He recalled the accomplishments of his outgoing government, singling out the Abraham Accords.

Mocking Bennett, Netanyahu said he was even more worried after hearing him say he would fight Iran the same way he would keep Lapid, Labor and Meretz out of his government. He said the new government is unfit to lead the country for even a single day.

“An Israeli prime minister needs to know how to say no to the president of the United State,” Netanyahu said, praising his own speech to Congress against the Iran deal and lamenting that there will be no one left who could stand up for Israel that way.

Had Bennett told Israelis he would form a government with Lapid, he would not have gotten elected at all, Netanyahu said, calling him “fake Right.”

Idan Zonshine and Eve Young contributed to this report

 

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