Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett

All the signs are go: 49-year-old Naftali Bennett will likely replace Bibi Netanyahu as Israel’s leader. Bennett, whose parents immigrated to Israel from the US, is the leader of the Right-wing Yamina party and has been a stalwart supporter of settlement building on the West Bank. However, during his recent visit to Jerusalem, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken made it crystal clear that the Biden administration will take a very dim view of Israel building any new settlements in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). 

This being the case, it has left the door open for Bennett to form a new coalition government with political parties ranging across the spectrum from the Right, Center, and Left-wing, including an Israeli-Arab party. Bennett served as Defense Minister in 2019-2020 under Netanyahu. During his military service, he became an officer in the highly-touted Sayeret Matkal combat unit. Obviously, no slouch; he has plenty of grey material between his ears – in private life, he founded a hi-tech company that he eventually sold for 145 million dollars. 

Lapid and Bennett (photo credit: i24 News)

So, with new settlement building obviously off the table, it has become possible for Bennett to form a wide-ranging coalition government to replace Netanyahu and the Likud party. However, it was Yair Lapid, leader of the Centrist “Future” party, who paved the way. In the last election, Lapid actually won more Knesset seats than Bennett but has agreed that Naftali will serve first as PM while he becomes Foreign Minister. The plan is that after two years, they will ‘rotate’ their positions, with Lapid taking over the premiership. 

According to reports, Benny Gantz will carry on as Defense Minister after making a political comeback and his deft handling of the recent conflagration with Hamas in Gaza. Avigdor Lieberman of the Russian Immigrants party will take over as Finance Minister. If this happens, it will be shocking news for the ultra-Orthodox religious parties who have backed Bibi to the hilt in return for special financial aid and releasing them from military service in the IDF. The ultra-Orthodox would face a different reality if Lieberman takes over the treasury. From the Left-wing, the once highly-regarded Labor party will receive minor cabinet positions. 

Prime Minister Netanyahu (screenshot from World Economic Forum)

It is hard to overestimate the impact of this governmental shift if it indeed takes place. Netanyahu has ruled Israeli politics with an iron fist for some 12 straight years; an unbelievable record in Israeli politics. He is now in the midst of a political corruption trial that lends credence to the saying, “power corrupts.” In the Likud party, there will be a total free-for-all for leadership if Netanyahu bows out. For years he demanded and got total obedience, and with good reason – he was the party’s meal ticket to winning one election after another. 

But what if Netanyahu, who has earned his reputation as a political magician, is able to pull off a last-minute caper that will upset what he brands a Left-wing government tantamount to disaster? He has made an impassioned appeal to Bennet’s Right-wing supporters to rebel against what he calls ‘a Bennet sellout’ to Israel’s Left-wing. Whoever said, “it’s not over till it’s over!”

Bill Maher socks it to Israel’s critics …

Bill Maher (By Angela George, CC BY 3.0)

After having to cancel his “Real Time” TV show due to testing positive for Coronavirus, Bill Maher had ample time to analyze how the ‘liberal media’ in the US was covering the recent Israel-Gaza warfare. He drew this conclusion:

“One of the frustrations I had while I was off was that I was watching this war go on in Israel … and it was frustrating to me because there was no one in the liberal media to defend Israel, really!” 

He went on to opine: 

“We’ve become in this country now … that we’re kind of one-sided on this issue. And I’d also like to say off the bat, I don’t think kids understand – and when I say kids, I mean the younger generations, you can’t learn history from Instagram, there’s just not enough space.”

Maher took issue with veteran New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who raised the issue of “possible war crimes” by Israel in Gaza: 

“While Gaza fired 4,000 rockets into Israel, what would you say Israel should have done instead of what they did?”

Kristof responded:

Nicholas Kristof (By World Economic Forum from Cologny, Switzerland, CC BY-SA 2.0)

“I mean, international lawyers are pretty clear that they have a right to defend themselves … but there’s a sense that their response was probably a war crime because they did not sufficiently avoid civilian casualties.” 

Maher reported:

“They (Hamas) purposefully put the rockets in civilian places – that’s their strategy.”

Maher went on to say the Israeli critics charge that Israel “stole” the land using terms such as “occupiers” and “apartheid.” Maher then backed up his position by giving Kristof a necessary history lesson:

“The Jews have been in that area of the world since about 1200 BC, way before the first Muslim or Arab walked the earth… I mean, Jerusalem was the capital. So if it’s ‘who got there first,’ it’s not even close.” 

And “Prof. Maher” added:

“The Jews were the ones who were occupied by everyone! The Romans took over at some point, and then the Persians, and the Byzantines, and then the Ottomans. So yes, there was colonization going on there. Beginning in the 19th century, they (the Jews) started to return to Palestine, which was never an Arab country. There was never a country called Palestine that was a distinct Arab country.”

Maher then backed up his case with more historical facts, unlike the sloppy generalizations of Kristof, by exhibiting two maps, comparing the United Nations’ 1947 proposed Palestinian territories, noting the Arabs were allotted “a good part” of the country when compared to Israel’s contemporary borders. 

“Doesn’t it behoove the people (the Palestinians) who rejected the half-a-loaf and continue to attack … The charter of Hamas (that rules Gaza with an iron fist) first wanted to wipe out Israel. Their position is “you all die.”

Then Maher added:

Barak, Clinton, and Arafat during peace negotiations. (Photo credit: PD-USGOV)

 “The two-state solution has been on the table a number of times. There could be an Arab capital in east Jerusalem now if Yasser Arafat had accepted it in 2003. Arafat did not!” 

This was at Camp David when the offer was made by then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak with the support of US President Bill Clinton. Arafat’s aids later said privately to US mediator Dennis Ross that if Arafat would have accepted Barak’s offer, the Palestinians would have assassinated him when he returned to the West Bank. 

Maher concluded his case:

“I mean, they (the Palestinians) rejected this and went to wartime and time again.” 

Maher then fast-forwarded to the present:

“And, you know, as far as Gaza goes, it’s amazing to me that the progressives think they’re being progressive by taking the Palestinian side of it. The Bella Hadids of the world. I just want to say, in February of this year, the Hamas court ruled that an unmarried woman cannot travel within Gaza without the permission of a male guardian. Really? That’s where the progressives are? Bella Hadid and their friends would run screaming to Tel Aviv if they had to live in Gaza for one day!”

Kristof, rather than coping with Maher’s historical facts, tried to defend Hadid and himself by saying that the supermodel was not defending Hamas, but rather 57 kids killed in the latest Gaza flareup (that was started by Hamas). Maher also refuted Kristof’s lame explanation by noting that the Hamas battle cry is, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” Did this not imply a vailed genocide of the Israeli nation? 

Maher also took issue with the slandering of Israel by referring to it as an ‘apartheid’ state. He contended Israel was far different from the original apartheid of South Africa that was run by Britain and Holland, who had no claim to the land. 

Maher then shredding the superficial insinuations of Kristof:

“The Israelis, they have made mistakes, but it’s an ‘apartheid’ state because they keep getting attacked!” Maher exclaimed. “If they don’t keep a tight lid on this s—, they get killed! That seems like something different!”

Our thanks to Joseph Wulfsohn for bringing Maher’s dialogue to our attention on Yahoo news. 

Gabi Ashkenazi, former IDF Chief of Staff (CC IDF)

P.S. Consider this – during this last conflagration, it speaks volumes that nearly all the Arab states have remained silent, reflecting what they think of Hamas in Gaza and the support, military, and financial that Gaza receives from their arch enemy, Iran. And how does columnist Kristof, and the like-minded, explain the fact that two Arab countries, Egypt and Jordan, signed peace agreements with Israel years ago (Israel’s Foreign Minister, Gabi Ashkenazi, has just made a trip to Cairo to discuss the Gaza crisis). Recently, four other Arab countries, Bahrain, UAE, Sudan, and Morocco, have also normalized relations with Israel.

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