Thaw needed in ties with Turkey, says Israeli right-wing leader

Thaw needed in ties with Turkey, says Israeli right-wing leader

İrem Köker - Jerusalem / Hürriyet
Thaw needed in ties with Turkey, says Israeli right-wing leader

Naftali Bennett, the leader of the religious Habayit Hayehudi party, speaks at an event in the coastal city of Ashdod, southern Israel, to inaugurate the building of a synagogue named after a site in the Gush Katif area of the Gaza Strip that was evacuated by Jewish settlers seven years ago. Bennett, a new comer to politics, has gained significantly in popularity.

The new face of the Israel’s right-wing political arena, Naftali Bennett, said that Turkey was an important ally and added Israel had to find ways to reduce the tension between the countries as the election race heated up in the country.

Israel must not allow a Palestinian state to be established in the heart of its land, but it should take steps to reduce tension with Turkey, the leader of the ultra Orthodox Jewish Home party said in an interview with daily Hürriyet over the weekend.

“Turkey is an important ally for us. We have to find ways to talk to Turkey and reduce tension,” Bennett said after an election rally in Kiryat Moztkin, a city in northern Israel. However, he declined to discuss specific issues such as apologizing to Turkey and paying compensation for those killed by the Israeli forces in the Mavi Marmara raid in 2010. “I don’t want to go into the specific details about Turkey. We will talk about it when the time is right.”

Israel is scheduled to hold early elections tomorrow. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had announced that he wanted to bring forward the election, originally scheduled for October 2013, because of the current deadlock among coalition partners over the passage of a budget packed with austerity measures.

Bennett, an outspoken 40-year-old software tycoon, became the rising star of the politics thanks to his charismatic look and ultra-nationalistic views. He rejects a Palestine state, defends the annexation of most parts of the West Bank, but says the conditions of Palestinians should be improved.

‘Singapore of Mideast’

“Look what happened in Gaza. It was supposed to become the ‘Singapore of the Middle East.’ But we gave it away, and now it has turned into a terror state. We should not allow a terror state to exist at the heart of Israel,” he said, adding his opinion that Israelis and Palestinians could sit together and find a de facto peace solution without any “nonsense conferences.”

According to recent polls, Bennett’s party is expected to become the third largest party in the race after the Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s Likud, which is allied with the former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party, and Labor, the largest opposition party. Bennett’s Jewish Home has three chairs in the outgoing Knesset, but is expected to increase this number by 10-15 percent.

Last week’s polls in the Haaretz and Yedioth Ahronoth newspapers both showed Netanyahu’s party winning 32 seats, its poorest predicted showing so far and some 10 seats fewer than Likud and Yisrael Beitenu took in 2009 when they ran separately.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu has pledged that there will be no dismantlement of any Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank if he wins the election.

Bennett’s support mainly comes from young and first time voters. David, a 25-year-old university student, is among them. “He says the things that are in my mind. I believe in his views. First, we are Jews, only then can we be democrats,” David told Hürriyet, as he handed out stickers with Bennett’s picture.

Tensions flare up

Meanwhile, tension also flared up and smear campaigns have taken hold ahead of the opening of polls across the country, with two reported incidents of vandalism at both the Tzipi Livni and Shas party headquarters.

In the first incident, unknown vandals on the night of Jan. 19 burnt several Torahs at the Shas party headquarters in Or Yehuda, Israel Radio reported.

In addition, yesterday morning vandals sprayed graffiti on the walls of the Tzipi Livni Party headquarters in Tel Aviv, according to a party statement.

The graffiti read: “Yigal Amir was right,” in reference to the murderer of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.