The press conference on Saturday was meant to restore Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett's image in the wake of his damaging remark in an interview Thursday that he would refuse orders to evacuate Jews from their homes in Judea and Samaria.
It has already been written that "Naftali is a hind let loose: He giveth goodly words" (Genesis 49:21), but Bennett's argument on Saturday was hardly “goodly.”
The question is not whether soldiers in Sayeret Matkal (the IDF's elite general staff reconnaissance unit, in which Bennett served) are sent to remove illegal outposts. I certainly share Bennett's hope that people living legally on their own land would not be removed from their homes. A Jew must not kick anyone, Jew or Arab, out of his or her home. The chances of anything like this happening in the foreseeable future are also extremely low.
But since we are in the midst of an election campaign, it is Bennett's right to accuse the Likud party of such intentions. An opposition party needs to distinguish itself from the ruling party to win votes.
All this is obvious and familiar to us from previous elections. Bennett is young, talented and charismatic, and many of his voters belong to the excellent "orange” movement, which opposed the evacuation of Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip in 2005. But Bennett is no longer a private man. In declaring that he would refuse orders — and the test is always in carrying out an order that runs contrary to the soldier's beliefs, not an order with which he identifies — his words reverberate, acting as a bad example for his voters.
I hoped that after his slip of the tongue he would explain in simple, understandable terms that he took back his words. I expected him to declare that if the government should decide, and the Supreme Court should approve, the future evacuation of communities, he would continue to oppose it (as is natural) but would carry out the evacuation order himself. Because without this, we don't have a state — we have anarchy. Without this, there is no common thread uniting the Jewish state, and we will soon see Israel collapse, just as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has always dreamed.
Bennett's mouth got him into this, and it should be Bennett's mouth that gets him out, by promising that if he is called to duty, he will carry out orders without any insubordination. There are a number of MKs in the Knesset today who, despite their age, continue to serve in the IDF reserves, like Yohanan Plesner and Eitan Cabel. If Bennett, who is younger than they are, is called up for reserve service, he would most likely report for duty. All he has to say is that he would carry out any legal order, rather than delegating it to his underlings. That is what is expected of a commander. That is what is expected of a leader.
So who is right in this argument? It seems that Bennett attributes impractical and unlikely intentions to the Likud. But even if he is permitted to make these claims in an election campaign, when the time comes to actually debate this painful topic, the two sides will behave like the opposing rabbinical houses of Hillel and Shammai. Each side believes strongly in its own interpretation, but no one knows with which side God agrees. When the time comes to decide one way or the other, the only alternative is to act in accordance with the Knesset's and the court's decisions.
A young combat soldier just starting out in one of the elite units told me last week that despite being secular he plans to vote for Bennett. I did not respond. Unless Bennett explicitly promises to take back the remarks he made in that interview, I would recommend to the soldier that he view Bennett with suspicion.