UPDATE 19:30 EST: Bennett’s office released his statements to the press, and it was initially reported that he also said: “If the prime minister was hurt, I am certainly sorry about that.” However shortly afterward, his office released a correction and said that they made a mistake while transcribing Bennett’s statements, and that he in fact did not apologize.
Earlier Wednesday, sources said that Bennett, leader of the Habayit Hayehudi party, had told confidants that he has no intention of apologizing.
UPDATE 16:00 EST: Jerusalem Post reports that PM Netanyahu accepts Bennett’s non apology, apology.
The non-apology came less than an hour after the PMO issued an ultimatum via the press: Either Bennett apologizes by 10 a.m. Sunday, or he is out of the government.
“Bennett’s dismissal letter was ready; the ultimatum worked faster than we thought it would,” sources in the Prime Minister’s Office said.
Bennett stated that he was sorry that Netanyahu was offended; which is insulting and does nothing to resolve the matter. The coalition problems are not over, just temporarily papered over.
Israel Coalition Crisis May Delay Kerry Plan for Months.
According to a report on Channel 2 TV, Economics Minister Naftali Bennett must apologize to Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu or he will be fired before the next cabinet meeting on Sunday.
Bennett refuses to apologize and is working on a conciliatory message instead. Economy Minister Naftali Bennett is working with senior members of his party on a message meant to placate Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Wednesday after sources in the latter’s office said the former must apologize or quit the government.
“We won’t apologize, but we’ll send a message of compromise,” a senior Bayit Yehudi source said, adding that Bennett is working on the message’s wording with faction chairwoman Ayelet Shaked and Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel.
Now, a senior coalition member has claimed in an interview with Arutz Sheva that the entire saga was “engineered” by a senior member of Netanyahu’s team, and that it was done with the specific intent to “heat things up” and get rid of Bennett.
Bennett is staunch opponent of the Kerry plan which is now ready for prersentation next week. Kerry will be arriving in town again next week with a US framework agreement in hand.
Netanyahu is caught between the far right [including Bennett], who claim they will leave the government if the plan is accepted; and the centrists who are demanding acceptance of the plan or they will leave the governing coalition.
The firing of Bennett removes 12 coalition Knesset seats from the government, creating a coalition with only 56 seats; which is five less than the minimum of 61 needed to form a government.
Bennet may be removed for two political reasons.
1. In the hope that a centrist party may bring enough seats to govern and so reduce the weight of the far right,
2. To put off the Kerry trip because of the political crisis in Israel; which if Bibi cannot bring in more Knesset seats, may be delayed for months due to the necessity of elections.
Netanyahu is riding high in the polls right now, and it is unlikely that he can bring another party into the coalition, further if he does accept the Kerry plan he will be anathema to the far right; that seems to mean an election call which could delay things up to four months from the call date.
Is Bennet on the way out?
Can Netanyahu find another coalition partner to make up enough seats to govern? Or will the other far right coalition parties reject more centrists in the coalition?
Will there be an early election call for Israel?
Will the peace plan be delayed for months?
Will Netanyahu go to war with Gaza to appear tough on security? Will he then go to war with Hezbollah for the same reason?
Will that plan backfire as thousands of rockets strike central Israel, making common Israelis sick of war and ready to vote for a peace coalition?