Despite years-long rivalry, it’s the first time the two attacked each other so directly and viciously.
By World Israel News Staff
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu traded barbs in heated addresses to the Knesset on Monday night, attacking each other’s track records on Iran, Gaza and Covid.
Despite a political rivalry going back more than a decade, it’s the first time the two attacked each other so directly and viciously.
The stage was set earlier in the day.
Speaking at a Likud faction meeting in the Knesset that afternoon, Netanyahu criticized a water agreement signed with Jordan on Thursday. According to the agreement, Israel will sell an additional 50 million cubic meters of water above what it already sends to Jordan under the terms of their peace agreement. The deal also significantly raises Jordanian exports to the Palestinian Authority.
Netanyahu told his Likud cohorts, “It’s very important, but [Bennett] apparently didn’t understand that when he gives water, Abdullah gives oil to Iran.”
Addressing the Knesset on Monday night, Bennett attacked the former prime minister, saying, “Never in the history of the State of Israel has there been someone who has spoken so much and done so little on Iran.”
“What you’ve neglected, we are fixing, and you are the new sourpusses,” the prime minister added. “You just grumble, complain, and whine.”
He also accused Netanyahu of showboating for prime-time TV coverage.
“If I were Bibi Netanyahu, I would do this. At 8:03 p.m., I would break into the nightly news broadcasts, with a serious face. ‘Citizens of Israel, I am the greatest leader since Herzl, and all my ministers are dwarfed [by me] and I take credit [for their accomplishments],’” said Bennett, deepening his voice slightly in a mocking impression of Netanyahu.
“We sealed the gaps [in the vaccine supply] that you left behind, but we don’t need to call a press conference for every phone call with [Pfizer CEO Albert] Bourla,” Bennett said.
Accusing Netanyahu of being soft on Gaza rocket fire, Bennett added, “After 12 years of neglect in the Gaza Strip, of tens of thousands of rockets, the intractable policy of my predecessor, MK Bibi Netanyahu, was to lower our heads, to absorb, to have restraint.”
Netanyahu wasted no time firing back when he took the podium.
“One question for Bennett and [Foreign Minister Yair] Lapid’s fraudulent government — how did you manage to spoil our success in the fight against the coronavirus in such a short time?” Netanyahu asked rhetorically.
“We managed to close the hospital’s COVID departments, you opened them up again. We removed the masks, you brought the masks back. What are you doing in the face of the new COVID outbreak? The answer is that you’re not doing anything… the only things you have are selfies and tweets.”
Defending his record on Iran, Netanyahu said, “Our activity halted and foiled and scuttled the Iranian nuclear [program] for years. Everyone knows the truth. The ones who know the truth regarding our activity are the Iranians, who looked forward to our government being replaced by your government,” referring to the Bennett-Lapid rotation agreement.
Netanyahu said Lapid is “the real prime minister of Israel,” and claimed the foreign minister caved in to American demands on Iran.
“The de facto prime minister has relinquished the sovereign principle of defending Israel from an existential threat, and that says it all,” said Netanyahu.
Their bad blood goes back years. Bennett served as Netanyahu’s chief of staff from 2006 to 2008. It’s not clear what exactly prompted their 2008 split, but reports over the years suggest Bennett had a falling out with Netanyahu’s wife, Sara.