Israeli PM-in-waiting Naftali Bennett’s most controversial remarks

Naftali Bennett (AP)

Nada AlTaher

The National  /  May 31, 2021

Bennett once said the formation of a Palestinian state would be ‘suicide’ for Israel.

Hopes for change of leadership in Israel are riding on right-wing millionaire Naftali Bennett as he positions himself to replace long-time premier Benjamin Netanyahu.

At 49, the former tech entrepreneur is 22 years younger than Mr Netanyahu. He differs from the current prime minister in his liberal stance on the economy, but he is certainly on the same page as other far-right Israeli nationalists in terms of [internal and] foreign policy.

Here some of Mr Bennett’s most controversial [sic] positions:

On the two-state solution

In a 2013 interview, Mr Bennett dismissed long-standing UN and Arab League proposals for a two-state solution as the only path to peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Mr Bennett said he believed Israel should unilaterally annex 60 per cent of the West Bank, known as area C, which the 1994 Oslo Accords placed under Israeli military rule.

Critics [sic] say this would be a breach of international law.

He has repeatedly said that Israel is waging a “battle” for area C and called for halting “illegal construction” by Palestinians in the territory.

“Our objective is that within a short amount of time, and we will work for it, we will apply Israeli sovereignty to all of Area C, not just the settlements, not just this bloc or another,” he said in January last year at a policy forum in Jerusalem.

Mr Netanyahu has said he would annex all of the West Bank, a move which former US president Donald Trump supported.

Critics say any attempts to annex the West Bank – or parts of it – would convert the occupied Palestinian territories into little more than enclaves under apartheid-style occupation, especially since not all of the Palestinians living in the area would want Israeli citizenship, or accept it if offered.

Palestinian state would be ‘suicide’ for Israel

In what some labelled as a scare tactic to boost is support, Mr Bennett said that the formation of a Palestinian state would be ‘suicide’ for Israel.

“Even if the world pressures us, we will not willingly commit suicide,” he said in 2015.

Palestinians have called for an independent state comprising the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in the 1967 war.

Mr Bennett said allowing the Palestinians self-rule in the West Bank would bring “endless war” for Israel.

Part of the 2020 [so-called] Abraham Accords signed between the UAE and Israel stipulates that Israel must halt annexation of Palestinian land, which UAE ambassador to the US Yousef Al Otaiba said would have a “profoundly negative” impact on the Arab world.

“The truth is that the Abraham Accords were about preventing annexation. The reason it happened, the way it happened, at the time it happened was to prevent annexation,” Mr Al Otaiba said in February.

Killing Arabs

Before the release of 104 Palestinian prisoners by Israel in 2013, Mr Bennett reportedly told the Knesset he would rather kill “terrorists” than bring them to trial. Israeli media said Mr Bennett was unapologetic about his remarks, and added that he had “killed many Arabs” in his life.

Although he issued a denial on his official Facebook page, Mr Bennett later doubled down on his comments, saying that people who “endanger” Israeli soldiers should be “eliminated”.

Nada AlTaher – Senior Foreign Reporter, Abu Dhabi