JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett must apologize for remarks contradicting Benjamin Netanyahu or face the consequences, the Prime Minister’s Office told Israeli news outlets.
“Bennett was given a message that he has to apologize clearly and unequivocally or there will be a price to pay,” an official in the Prime Minister’s Office was quoted as saying by the Israeli media on Wednesday.
The rift over Netanyahu’s statement that no settlements will be dismantled and the clarification by the Prime Minister’s Office that Netanyahu meant West Bank settlers could choose to live as citizens in a Palestinian state could threaten the makeup of the government coalition.
“Netanyahu has alternatives,” his office reportedly said. “A government without Bennett will continue to work to secure Israel just as it did in the previous government. No one will lecture Netanyahu about patriotism and defending Israel. After all his grievances, it is unclear why Bennett remains stuck to his government seat.”
On Jan. 24, Netanyahu told reporters at the Davos Economic Forum that he would not uproot a single settlement or settler. Bennett, who heads the right-wing Jewish Home party, responded two days later, saying, “We did not return to the land of Israel after 2,000 years of longing to live under the government of Mahmoud Abbas.”
On Monday, Netanyahu said he would meet with Bennett and reprimand him, but a day later Bennett told the annual conference of the Institute for National Security Studies that Jews cannot remain in a Palestinian state.
“That will not happen and it cannot happen,” Bennett said. “You know why Israelis can’t live under Palestinian rule? Because the Palestinians would kill them.”