As he came under fire for suggesting he would refuse an order to evict settlers from their homes, Habayit Hayehudi
Chairman Naftali Bennett
tried to rectify the situation with a statement on Saturday but offered no apologies.
"I never called (on soldiers) to refuse orders," he said in a press conference at the party's headquarters in Petah Tikva. "Any intelligent viewer would understand that. But the Likud
and the political sphere pounced on my remarks, distorted them and made it look like I called for disobedience. They undermined the IDF's
unity for a quarter of a Knesset seat."
Bennett, an officer with the IDF's reserve corps, said in interviews earlier this week that his conscience wouldn't allow him to kick a person out of his land, be it a Jew or an Arab.
"You won't hear me calling for disobedience because that would devastate the army," he told Ynet on Wednesday. "But as a soldier, if I were to be ordered to expel someone, I would say that I can't and that I'm willing to pay the price." He reiterated the remarks in an interview with Channel 2 on Thursday.
On Saturday, after his comments caused a stir, he tried to qualify his statements.
"I spoke from the bottom of my heart on Thursday and I won't apologize for it," he told reporters.
"Nevertheless, I am not a private citizen but a public leader. So now I state in no uncertain terms: An order to uproot an Arab village or a Jewish settlement violates the most basic of human rights... It's a difficult dilemma. I pray with all my heart that no such order is issued ever again. But the bottom line is, if there is no other choice … a soldier must follow the army's orders."
Bennett went on to level staunch criticism at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
and members of his party, accusing them of colluding with the Left to give away Israeli territory.
"The Likud, with its partners on the Left, might bring another disengagement upon us," he charged.
"I call on Prime Minister Netanyahu to retract his agreement to a Palestinian state. Otherwise he (will have to) to uproot settlers from their homes yet again," he added.
Bennett further pledged that his party will be powerful enough to make sure no soldiers face the "inhuman dilemma" of whether to forcefully expel Jews from their homes or refuse to obey their commanders' orders.
The Likud over the weekend took advantage of the controversial nature of Bennett's remarks in the hope of stunting Habayit Hayehudi's success at the polls.
"A politician cannot say that he will refuse an order if it doesn't fit in with his world view," Education Minister Gideon Saar said Saturday.
Labor Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich, meanwhile, branded Bennett's remarks as "akin to incitement" and stressed that "disobedience is dangerous regardless of whether it is perpetrated on the Right or the Left."
Hatnua Chairwoman Tzipi Livni
chimed in as well, saying that "Bennett's disobedience" puts him on par with Likud candidate Moshe Feiglin's
"This is the Likud-Beiteinu and these are (the party's) partners: Those who don't serve in the army at all and those who choose which orders to follow. All of them will deprive us of a (peace) agreement and of hope for a better future," she said.