As violence between Israelis and Palestinians escalates, Naftali Bennett tells DW's Conflict Zone why he opposes a 'two-state solution'.
Israeli cabinet minister Naftali Bennett says: "We're surrounded by the craziest people in the world," during what he calls "probably the toughest interview I have ever faced."
As the series of violent clashes between Israelis and Palestinians continues to escalate, Naftali Bennett sees a "beautiful Jewish democracy" endangered by Palestinians. Since the beginning of October, 11 Israelis were killed in Palestinian knife attacks and 69 Palestinians were killed by Israeli authorities as of November 3.
Bennett says in an exclusive DW interview: "When hundreds of Muslims - of radical Islamic terrorists, are out to kill me and my family. Yes, I will defend myself. And, you know what, I am not going to apologize for it. I am proud of it," adds Bennett.
Israel's Minister of Education and leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party is a vocal opponent of the "two-state solution," supported by his own Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the international community. "I'm not suggesting forming a Palestinian state in the midst of Israel. I think that would be a profound mistake," the minister says on Conflict Zone with Tim Sebastian. "There are so many Arab states around the world. They're doing just so well, aren't they? So it’s time to found another one, right?" he explains sarcastically.
These comments follow Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' call for a "special regime" to protect Palestinians "more urgently than any time before." In a speech addressing the UNHRC, he also accused Israel of "extrajudicial killings" amid mounting tensions.
However, when speaking with Tim Sebastian, Bennett claims: "There's no place better on earth for Arabs than in Israel." In regards to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, he says: "The only place in the Middle East that exercises full religious rights for all religions - Christianity, Muslims and Jews - is Israel. And he adds: "Temple Mount is the holiest place on earth for Jews, no one should tell us how to govern Temple Mount… I will not dispute the status quo: it will go on."
The leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party doesn't mind Palestinians being integrated in Israel - but he demands a different status for them. "We have to realize that no one is going anywhere. The Jews are here to stay; the Arabs are here to stay. We have to live together."
Pockets of anti-Semitism in Europe
Meanwhile, Bennett accuses western Europe, particularly the EU, of having a "growing Islamic presence" and "pockets of anti-Semitism" towards Israel.
Tim Sebastian: "Why is it anti-Semitism? Why isn't it just criticism?"
Naftali Bennett: "When you see that Assad is butchering a quarter of a million of his own people and what you care about is building another kindergarten or not in a settlement – I call that double standards ... I call that anti-Semitism."
Aside from being Minister of Education in Benjamin Netanyahu's government, Naftali Bennett has also been leader of The Jewish Home party since 2012. He previously served as Minister of Economy, Minister of Diaspora Affairs and Minister of Religious Services. He was born in Haifa in 1972 and studied law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem after his IDF service.
The full interview is available online now.