Ariela Ringel Hoffman
Ariela Ringel Hoffman
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in White House during Friday's meeting with Biden

Biden meeting signals real start of Bennett's premiership

Opinion: No longer a hawkish opposition member, Israeli leader must return from U.S. with more than usual 'friendly' assurances; he must also oversee a safe reopening of schools in wake of raging Delta and calm Gaza tensions

Ariela Ringel Hoffman |
Published: 08.27.21, 23:38
It is not unreasonable to assume that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday showed the Israeli leader how wide the gap is between promises made to the cameras and actions on the ground.
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  • During a tour of Israel's northern frontier earlier this month, Bennett warned that Iran's leaders will no longer "sit peacefully in Tehran while they are setting the Middle East ablaze."
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    ראש הממשלה נפתלי בנט נפגש עם נשיא ארה"ב ג'ו ביידן
    ראש הממשלה נפתלי בנט נפגש עם נשיא ארה"ב ג'ו ביידן
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in White House during Friday's meeting with Biden
    (Photo: AFP)
    "We know how to act on our own," he said, adding that when it comes to Iran, "speeches will not suffice."
    While Israel knows very well how to independently deal with Tehran's nuclear program and its regional aggression, it is doubtful whether it has the freedom to do so. And this will probably not be the only issue that will make Bennett realize that in politics "what is seen from the bottom, is not seen from the top," as cliché as it sounds.
    Bennett's visit to Washington, as brief as it may be, is just another part in the baptism of fire he has been going through over the past few weeks as part of his initiation into premiership.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    ראש הממשלה נפתלי בנט נפגש עם נשיא ארה"ב ג'ו ביידן
    ראש הממשלה נפתלי בנט נפגש עם נשיא ארה"ב ג'ו ביידן
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in White House during Friday's meeting with Biden
    (Photo: GPO)
    It is a far-cry from his celebratory and emotional winning speech. It's real life, much more challenging and complicated than what could be summarized in a short address to the nation.
    Bennett's schedule during his Washington trip was very tight, a rapid-fire of talks with White House and Jewish American officials. In each of these meetings, it is safe to assume the premier had to listen more than speak.
    He most likely realized that Israel's burning issues – the nuclear deal with Iran, tensions with Hamas and Hezbollah and negotiations with the Palestinians – are not a top priority for the administration in Washington.
    But he will still have to provide answers to all those issues when he returns to Israel. Bennett left for Washington amid increased tensions on the Gaza border and now that he's coming back, we're waiting for solutions as to how he is going to deal with this burning matter.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    עימותים בגבול רצועת עזה
    עימותים בגבול רצועת עזה
    Palestinian protestors on the Gaza border fence
    (Photo: AFP)
    No longer a hawkish and vocal member of the opposition, he must do his part as prime minister and act. Will Israel not respond to Hamas' provocations on the border in an effort to calm down the tensions or will it "stop cowering" as the father of the Border Police officer critically wounded on the border over last weekend, told Bennett.
    And if that is not enough, the Delta variant continues to run amok. New daily COVID cases edge toward 10,000, with some hospitals striking over lack of funds and others near collapse due to overload of virus patient.
    In addition, one million Israelis remain unvaccinated and the planned reopening of schools next week will not make matters easier.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    מחלקת הקורונה בבית החולים שיבא, תל השומר
    מחלקת הקורונה בבית החולים שיבא, תל השומר
    Sheba Medical Center's coronavirus ward
    (Photo: Tal Shahar)
    Since taking office, Bennett's term so far has been no walk in the park. No longer the spectator shouting from the gallery, now he must run straight into the burning building and rescue survivors.
    Bennett must return from the U.S. with more than usual "friendly assurances" from American officials, oversee a safe reopening of schools and give back to Israelis in northern and southern Israel a sense of security.
    This is Bennett's hour of judgment and all that unfolds from this point on will not only decide whether he will see his tenure through, but how Israeli history will remember him.

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