Some called it the political gaffe of the month. Naftali Bennett, the new golden boy of the Israeli right, said last week that he would consider refusing a military order to evacuate Jews from their homes. The press made much of his subsequent half-hearted apology.
But the truth is that Bennett’s pro-settler stance is no gaff but rather a deliberate policy, which is snatching large chunks of votes from Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud. Polls now show Mr Bennett’s party, Habayit Hayehudi, on track to become the third largest in the Knesset, which would cause major coalition conundrums for Mr Netanyahu if, as expected, he starts to form a government after next month’s elections.
The prime minister’s recent decision to approve the construction of 6,000 homes beyond the Green Line, in the face of condemnation even from strong allies of Israel such as Canada’s Stephen Harper, is a direct consequence of his need to claw back votes from Mr Bennett. Israeli politics is currently engaged in a worrying zero-sum game.