Opinion: Naftali Bennett – leader of the Left?

Bennett appears poised to lead a National Unity government made up of some surprising bedfellows.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

“The Likud will do after the election what it always does, turn immediately to the Left.”

Those words sound dissonant today, given that they were spoken by Naftali Bennett, leader of the Yemina party, a week before the elections.

On Sunday the headline of a major Hebrew paper cried out, “Yemina Breaks Leftward.” Yemina, ironically, means “rightward.” So an equally accurate translation of the headline could be: “Rightward Breaks Leftward.”

Such a nonsensical headline fits the events that are unfolding as Bennett seems poised to form a government with parties that oppose him on every principle he professes to hold dear.

That’s if he is serious. Until the deal is closed, it’s possible this adventure is all for show, an attempt by Bennett to appear statesmanlike as he proves to the Israeli public that he has exhausted every possibility before supporting a fifth round of elections.

If he is serious, it’s hard to believe his base would approve.

Bennett is viewed by his electorate as someone who will keep Netanyahu “honest.” It’s how he’s sold himself in the past – as one who will strengthen Netanyahu’s backbone on issues where the prime minister has fallen short, i.e. asserting Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, fighting Hamas in Gaza, battling back against a left-wing Supreme Court. As Netanyahu points out, Bennett made “explicit promises” not to join the left.

It’s safe to say that Bennett is not viewed (at least not yet) as prime ministerial material, judging from his party’s seven Knesset seats. Bennett even said it wouldn’t be legitimate, or moral, for him to serve as prime minister unless he received at least 20 seats.

Netanyahu received 30, equivalent to one million voters – and that’s with the double-albatross of an ongoing corruption trial and a hostile press.

Yet, it’s Bennett who appears to have the best chance of becoming prime minister – that’s his No. 1 condition for joining the Frankenstein-like coalition of parties that make up the opposition, whose only tie that binds is a desire to oust Netanyahu.

If Bennett can serve that purpose, he will be praised and petted in the most surprising of quarters (read: Haaretz). Once his purpose has been served, it will be his turn to be ousted.

At least that’s what Netanyahu predicts, saying an opposition government would survive only a few months before it would collapse and new elections would be held.

It’s impossible to know what Bennett is thinking. Perhaps Netanyahu is right when he says that Bennett is obsessed with becoming prime minister,

Bennett has already showed an obsessive side where cabinet portfolios are concerned. He repeatedly demanded the Defense Ministry, and he finally got it. They say he performed well in the role. It could be that Bennett feels if he could just show the public a solid performance as prime minister, they will warm to him.

Perhaps it will be Bennett who dissolves the National Unity government after six months to a year in the role, confident that the public will stream to the polls and elect him as their leader – a grateful nation.

It may not be the most far-fetched of scenarios. If there’s one thing that is fixed in Israeli politics it’s that its politicians don’t lack for egos.

David Isaac is managing editor of World Israel News.