Bennett concedes defeat: ‘I, and only I, am to blame’

Bennett’s New Right is said to have missed out from entering the Knesset by the narrowest margin in Israeli history.

By David Jablinowitz, World Israel News

Outgoing Education and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett has conceded defeat, posting on social media on Tuesday that he had done the best he could, but that after a week of counting and re-examination of the vote tallies, he must acknowledge defeat.

Israeli law requires that a party receive at least 3.25 percent of the vote to enter the Knesset. Mr. Bennett’s New Right party missed out by about 1,400 votes, according to the Central Elections Committee. Minister Bennett’s deputy in the party, departing Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, said that this was the smallest margin of failure by any party in Knesset election history.

“After six years of serving as a minister, 100 days of campaigning, and a week of fighting for every vote, I can say: I have done the best I can for the people of Israel,” Bennett wrote on Facebook.

“This time, it wasn’t enough. I have no complaints toward anyone. I, and only I, am to blame,” he said.

Ministers Bennett and Shaked had broken off from the Jewish Home party, which they led, to form the New Right at the end of December, after the Knesset voted to head to early elections.

At the inaugural news conference of the New Right, Mr. Bennett said that Jewish Home had started to lose influence. Jewish Home had grown out of the National Religious Party, which Minister Bennett felt limited its appeal. In creating a list of candidates for the New Right, he encouraged secular personalities to vie for Knesset seats, and brought more women in, as well.

With the announcement of the New Right, Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Shaked said that the party would be an equal representation of men and women and religious and secular.

Mr. Bennett is Orthodox; Mrs. Shaked is secular.

Pundits took MK Bennett’s message to mean that he wished to head a less sectoral party, even as he continued to stress the right-wing ideology, in order to reach a broader public and move forward toward achieving his dream of one day becoming prime minister.

However, things didn’t go according to plan. Jewish Home expanded its bloc without its two former leaders, ran in the April 9 election as the United Right, and earned five seats in the 120-seat Knesset, while New Right was left out in the cold.

“You will continue from where I left off,” Mr. Bennett wrote to his supporters on social media.

“And I promise: in any place where I will be, I will not stop serving as a soldier of the Jewish people,” he said.

His use of the word ‘soldier’ contains some meaning as he had hoped to become defense minister in the new government.

During his tenure as education minister, he had been outspoken in expressing his views and challenged governmental policies from within the Cabinet.

Considering Mr. Bennett’s personality and ambitions, political observers say that he will not stay away from the national spotlight for very long.