Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is a passionate man, but he’s also typically cool and collected. On Wednesday, however, he let loose during one of the more rowdy Knesset showdowns in recent memory.
The prime minister got so heated that at one point he had to be kept by fellow MKs and Knesset ushers from getting any closer to his rivals. (See below video)
The heated exchange came amid a vote on the so-called “Electricity Law” that will enable thousands of illegally-built houses to connect to the electrical grid. Most of those houses are in Arab towns and neighborhoods, where illegal construction is rampant. But there are also not a few in ultra-Orthodox Jewish towns, where the same problem exists.
Opposition lawmakers accused the government of effectively surrendering to internal Arab elements who are trying to “steal” the Promised Land. They said this was particularly heinous coming from a national religious leader like Bennett.
In an effort to embarrass Bennett and the right-wing factions in his government, the opposition introduced an amendment to the bill that would also permit illegal Jewish outposts in Judea and Samaria to connect to the electrical grid. They knew it wouldn’t pass, but believed it would expose the current government’s alleged hypocrisy.
The following video is from a Hebrew-language news report, but shows the confrontation from up close:
Rift over support for religious settlers
The showdown over the Electricity Law wasn’t the end of Bennett’s political troubles this week. On Thursday he had to issue a statement countering the remarks of one of his government’s deputy ministers after the latter effectively incited against religious Jewish settlers.
Deputy Economy Minister Yair Golan in an interview with the Knesset Channel referred to the Jewish settlers manning those aforementioned illegal outposts as “subhuman.”
“People who settle in an area that was legally evacuated — nobody should be there,” said Golan in reference to the northern Samaria outpost of Homesh.
Homesh was a Jewish settlement evacuated as part of the 2005 “Disengagement.” A small band of religious Jewish settlers have since returned to the hilltop and established a small yeshiva. Homesh returned to the headlines late last month when Palestinian terrorists ambushed and killed one of those yeshiva students. Ever since, the Jews of Homesh have been clashing with Palestinians living in the area.
“These aren’t people; they are subhuman, despicable people… they should not get any support and they should be removed by force from there,” said Golan of the young religious Jews in question.
Bennett quickly took to Twitter and called Golan’s remarks “shocking, generalizing and a borderline blood libel.”
Golan later tried to clarify that he was only speaking of those settlers who had actively clashed with local Palestinians and smashed tombstones in a local Muslim cemetery. But politicians from across the political spectrum, including many in the governing coalition, insisted that the tone of Golan’s remarks would only fuel hatred for all Jews living in Judea and Samaria.
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu pointed out that using the label “subhuman” was a Nazi tactic previously used to incite the population of Europe against the Jews.
Labor Party leader and Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli agreed, and that’s saying something. She and Netanyahu agree on very little. “Words have power. We are the first to know this, so the use of the words ‘subhuman’ is irresponsible and requires an apology,” she tweeted.