Naftali Bennett was the star of a Sunday afternoon political panel at Tel Aviv University -
...The discussion had just started when Bennett arrived, over half an hour late. The panel's other participants - Meretz leader MK Zahava Gal-On, MK Isaac Herzog of Labor, Likud Beitenu's MK Tzipi Hotovely, just-resigned MK Amir Peretz of Tzipi Livni's Hatnua, and Rabbi Shai Piron of Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid - patiently awaited his arrival.
All eyes were focused on the loaded Bennett-Mishal encounter. The pair did not make do with a handshake, embracing warmly. Then Bennett walked along the first row, shaking the hands of the panel members one after the other, while Sher, one of the organizers, waited onstage. “I'm waiting until you finish shaking hands,” said Sher with a smile.
Sher, a colonel in the reserves, did not ignore Bennett's remark about settlement vacuation.
“It never occurred to me to disobey an order – to protect settlers or settlements. Nor do I feel any joy or schadenfreude in evacuating settlers,” he said. “We hope that in the final analysis the necessary evacuation will be a unifying and empathetic step, rather than shaking off an important Israel public. Prime Minister Netanyahu has said more than once that not all the settlers will remain in place, and we want to know how exactly. We see nothing wrong with unilateral steps as long as they actively promote a two-state situation.”
It was obvious that Mishal and Bennett both enjoyed the spotlight. "Naftali, look what kind of media coverage you're getting," Mishal said to Bennett.
“I heard that the media are in a bad way and decided together with you to embark on a performance tour in order to improve the situation,” replied Bennett.
Mishal softened, and addressed the audience. “I want to inform you that Naftali said in advance that, due to previous commitments, he will be leaving in about half an hour. I thank you for coming,” he said.
Asked to briefly address the uproar he had triggered, Bennett suggested that his party would gain, rather than lose, Knesset seats in the wake of his remark. He reiterated that “the order to evacuate an Arab village or a Jewish community based on a government decision is a terrible thing, but it clashes with another weighty value – the value of obeying the law.”
...When Mishal asked Bennett who he thought stood was responsible for the reports in several Sunday morning newspapers that he supports a refusal to obey orders, the Habayit Hayehudi leader's reply was firm: “Likud.”
Bennett then called on the prime minister to refrain from dividing the nation and the IDF in order “to gain a third of a [Knesset] seats.” Referring to the ruling party, he said: “Pouncing on this as though they had discovered some great booty may seem nice, and perhaps they are getting strategic advice to do more and more of it. But it is tearing Israeli society apart.”...
And he may have the last laugh.