An Hour with Naftali Bennett: Is the Right-Wing Newcomer the New Face of Israel?

  • Share
  • Read Later
image: Naftali Bennett, head of the Jewish Home party, poses for a portrait at his office in the central Israel city of Petah Tikva, Jan. 10, 2013.
Oded Balilty / AP for TIME

Naftali Bennett, head of the Jewish Home party, poses for a portrait at his office in the central Israel city of Petah Tikva, Jan. 10, 2013.

Anyway but you said: One settler we were having lunch with, in Eli I think, and she was telling us about the Palestinians, and I remember saying to her they would probably find it a little patronizing, what she was saying about liking them and I said they’d want them to have rights of their own. And you jumped in and said, ‘They can’t, unfortunately. It’s a tragedy.’


Which was just: straight up.

Look. I’ll tell you.  It’s just not going to happen.  We’re now very near 400,000 Israelis in Judea and Samaria. I tell you, when I travel abroad or read a magazine… it’s obvious to me that it’s a fait accompli and there’s going to be a Palestinian state. But when I spend half a day in the field, it’s obvious there’s never going to be a Palestinian state. And this paradox is going to be the source of the friction. Whether you want it or not — I’m not even going into all the arguments why it’s good, why it’s not good — it’s just not going to happen. It’s not going to happen because we don’t have partner. It’s not going to happen because no one’s going to expel 200,000 Israelis, or 160,000, which is the most minimal plan. So it’s time to rethink. I’ve been meeting ambassadors of most of the Western countries over the last few months, and I tell them, ‘Listen, I’m not going to argue whether it’s good or bad, I’m just: assume for a moment, let’s hypothesize, let’s say it’s not going to happen. What do you do? Are we going to keep bashing our heads against the wall, or are we going to try to figure out some form of imperfect reality? But stable. Or do we try to enforce illusions on reality and bring about another round of violence?’ Which is what happened already several times. I’m not suggesting that this plan is the only possible plan. There’s a few others. I’m open, we’re all open. But what I urge the West is to think openly about this. And I regret Netanyahu’s profound mistake in accepting a two-state or a Palestinian state… If you say you support a Palestinian state, then you can’t be surprised if everyone’s pressuring you to do it. In my experience, I lived in America quite a few years, it’s okay to disagree but be straight, say what you mean, and this I think increasingly represents the mainstream Israel. Very few Israelis think there’s going to be an agreement with the Palestinians. That’s why the left wing is so weak and miserable.

I didn’t know this number on your video. Up to now I’d have said this is the election where the Palestinians don’t figure, and it’s kind of set aside because people can’t be  bothered with it because it’s not nourishing any more.

Right. Do you have Facebook? Look at the numbers here. There’s 16,700 shares, 68,0000 likes. It doesn’t show here the viewers, but through our tracking mechanism, this is the most shared video ever in Israel. Ever, a Facebook video. We also have it in YouTube but it’s about 40,000 views. If 16,000 share it, each person has 100 friends, that’s 1.6 million people. That’s a lot. It’s amazing,  Facebook. I have some new ideas about governing. It’s sort of, typically you go and vote, and then you fulfill your commitment, and in the meantime I have to govern it’s your problem.

(MORE: After the Cease-Fire in Gaza, Will the Cyberwar Continue?)

Some of Israel’s biggest problems require cooperation with the public. I’ll give you one example. Things are expensive, very expensive in Israel for many reasons. One of the reasons is our ports. It’s a monopoly. They run very poorly. And we have ships that are stuck in the ocean for three or four days or a week, and all that cost is transferred to the products and the consumer. To fix it you need to create a fair open market and competition, but if any politician tries to do that they’ll kick his ass. They’ll hire a consultant, pay 20 million shekels and have big ads: Naftali Bennett is a shmuck, on all the buses in Israel. They’ll break your brand. And they’ll strike. But imagine if you use this tool. And I talk to people, explain to people, we’re all paying 30 percent more for coffee because of this. I want to do this, but they’re going to kick my ass. Are you with me? Are you willing to endure and take it? If I put in temporary employees to endure the strike, will you be with me?  So that’s the sort of dialogue, and I think that as leaders of this country we have the right and even the duty to ask people to do things, and not only promise them. I think, ah, as Kennedy said, ask not, et cetera. I can ask people to volunteer, to do this, to do that, it’s a country that belongs to the people, not just the politicians. It’s a model, I haven’t even seen Obama do it yet.  He’s never asked the people, that I can recall, I need your help, we need 100,000 volunteers.

It was hard to ask people to sacrifice with the economy the way it was.

That’s right. The only one I remember was Bush, but he asked people: Go out and shop. Do you remember?  Very patriotic.  Go ahead and shop.

MORE: The Gaza Problem

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9