On Sunday evening, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, bid farewell. In characteristic fashion, he went down fighting. As a parting shot, he cited a verse in Psalms with a hidden meaning highlighting the partisan duplicity of Naftali Bennett, comparing the new government to the Biblical hotbed of evil, Sodom.
Netanyahu slams Bennett in farewell speech
“I stand here on the merit of millions of citizens who chose the path of standing proud and not the path of submission,” Netanyahu said in the opening of his speech. “I stand here as a public emissary chosen by more than one million Israelis who voted for Likud under my leadership and another million who voted for right-wing parties, knowing that they would be part of a government headed by me.”
Netanyahu went on to list the accomplishments of the government under his leadership which, after a total of almost 15 years, was quite extensive. After warning of the dangers of the Biden administration returning to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), known as the Iran deal, Netanyahu further warned that the formation of the recent coalition boded ill for such existential threats to Israel.
“I heard what Neftali Bennett said on this matter, and now I am infinitely more worried,” Netanyahu said. “Bennett always does the opposite of what he says, of what he promises. He’ll fight Iran like he won’t sit with Yair Lapid and Mansour Abbas, and Labour.”
One righteous man in Sodom
Netanyahu spent much of his farewell address slamming the new prime minister. Bennett ran on a right-wing platform but in order to form a coalition, he joined with Yesh Atid, a left-wing party led by Yair Lapid, and the Joint Arab List headed by Mansour Abbas. This was seen as political opportunism that betrayed the right-wing voters who put Bennett in office.
Netanyahu criticized the new prime minister by comparing the new coalition to the city of Sodom.
“If Bennett voters had known what he had agreed with Lapid before the election, he would not have passed the minimum required votes. Bennett misled tens of thousands of right-wing voters and shifted their voices from right to left. The public will not forget this huge scam and will come to terms with it and its supporters at the ballot box. The media of course will caress him and everyone around him because they know the simple truth; Bennett and his friends are fake right right and the public know it too.
“There is one righteous man in this Sodom,” Netanyahu said, naming MK Amichai Shikli,an MK for Bennett’s Yamina party. “He is the only one of the Knesset members of the imaginary right, the only one who remains true to his principles and the will of his constituents. He is not the defector, you members of the right are the defectors.”
The destruction of the city of Sodom was the backdrop for one of the ways God tested Abraham. By way of an angel emissary, God revealed to Abraham his intention to destroy the city due to its evil inhabitants. Abraham inquires if the Lord will spare the city should fifty righteous people be found within it, to which the Lord agrees. Abraham then pleads for mercy at successively lower numbers, finally arriving at a quorum of ten righteous inhabitants as a basis for saving the city. Ultimately, the angels were unable to find a righteous quorum and were able to save only Lot and his two daughters.
In the context of Netanyahu’s speech, one “righteous” member of Bennett’s party, though commendable and noteworthy, will not save the coalition from being judged as evil.
Psalms: A right-wing of lies
Netanyahu then cited Psalms as the basis for his criticism of Naftali Bennett.
“Bennett promised that he wouldn’t take part in a government alongside Yair Lapid because [Bennett] is a right-wing leader. This is what is meant in Psalms when it was written, “whose mouths speak lies, and whose oaths are false.” (Psalms 144:8)
Netanyahu’s Biblical reference was an entendre as the Hebrew word for oath is ימין (yamin) which literally means ‘right’. As such, the verse can also be translated as “whose mouth speaks lies and whose right is a right of lies.”
“Coalition on the head of a pin”
Netanyahu warned that Bennett’s coalition stood on the “head of a pin,” meaning the slimmest majority. He added other reasons to doubt the future efficacy of the new prime minister.
“[Bennett] doesn’t have the international standing. He doesn’t have the credibility. He doesn’t have the ability. He doesn’t have a government. He doesn’t have the ability to put up genuine opposition. And from all the differences, of which there are many, between us and the incoming government, this is the most important and fateful difference for the future of the state of Israel. An Israeli prime minister must be able to say no to the president of the United States on matters that endanger our existence, and to back this up with massive work in congress, in the senate, and in public opinion, into the greatest democracy, which is the United States.”