Washington Hosts Naftali Bennett—but not Benjamin Netanyahu
Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett visited Washington, D.C., for much of this week where he met with United States government and congressional officials.
Bennett told Iran International’s Arash Alaei in an interview released April 20 that he met with certain figures in the Biden administration “a few hours” before the interview. “I can say after a bunch of meetings with the relevant folks,” Bennett said, “that America has very little progress for [Iran’s] nuclear development, and so does Israel. Israel does not accept and will not allow the Islamic Republic to go nuclear.”
Bennett before Netanyahu: Bennett visiting Washington and meeting with the government is noteworthy. He was only in office from June 2021 to June 2022, and his party, New Right, no longer has any seats in the Knesset. U.S. President Joe Biden has been in office since January 2021. Benjamin Netanyahu was prime minister for the first few months of his term, and regained office late last year, but Biden has yet to invite Netanyahu to the White House and has said he won’t “in the near term.”
Israel is America’s strongest ally in the Middle East. Such a snub like not inviting Netanyahu to visit the White House is abrupt at best. Many speculated the reason for the snub is to pressure Netanyahu to abandon his judicial reform program. Netanyahu has not abandoned his program, but he has stalled its implementation and is currently in negotiations with the opposition. Yet that hasn’t satisfied the White House. That they’re willing to meet with a former prime minister with no political clout—a former prime minister who was part of the reason Netanyahu was ousted in 2021 in the first place—over the sitting prime minister shows how deep-seated this hostility is.
And why was Bennett even in Washington? He met with congressional and other government officials that he was happy to tweet pictures with. Yet he met with other anonymous officials and even refused to say where he met them. Who are these anonymous officials? And why the secrecy?
A future prime minister? He also said a number of things—such as, “Israel will not tolerate a nuclear Iran”—as if he were in a position to guarantee it. Bennett is not in government anymore. In the tweet above, the last sentence says: “It begins.” But he didn’t specify what was beginning. During his trip, he spoke at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, where he was asked if he wished to run again—he wouldn’t answer.
The Biden presidency (and the Obama presidency before it) gave financial aid to anti-Netanyahu advocacy groups. They’ve meddled in Israeli elections by preventing a Netanyahu-Arab summit. They’ve demonstrated they don’t like Netanyahu and want him gone.
Bennett became prime minister after political shenanigans he promised the electorate he wouldn’t do. In last year’s election, the electorate exacted revenge: His party was completely knocked out of the Knesset. He is unpopular with both the left and the right, and he knows that. His chance of getting voted in as prime minister again is next to zero. That is, unless he gets some help from powerful friends who are experts in regime change.
Does Bennett plan to retake the premiership? More importantly, do the Biden-Obama people plan to help him? Is there some sort of foreign-sponsored coup against Netanyahu planned?
We will have to wait and see. But the U.S. government has demonstrated in a number of ways that it doesn’t like Netanyahu and wants him out. Bennett could be another tool in its arsenal to use to this end.
To learn more, read our April 5 article “Benjamin Netanyahu Is Under Attack by America.”