JERUSALEM, Israel -- It appears Economy Minister Naftali Bennett's opposition to the concept of Jews living under Palestinian Authority sovereignty is shared by many Israelis. A new poll showed the Jewish Home party, which he chairs, would gain five seats if elections were held today, making it the third largest party in the government.
Earlier this week, Bennett responded with an emphatic "Never!" to statements by a senior aide of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, quoted by the Times of Israel, saying Israelis in Judea and Samaria would be able to choose whether to live under P.A. rule in the context of a future peace agreement.
"We did not return to the Land of Israel after 2,000 years of longing to live under the government of [P.A. leader] Mahmoud Abbas," Israeli media quoted Bennett's Facebook post. "Whoever advocates for the idea of Jewish life under Palestinian rule is undermining our ability to sit in Tel Aviv."
According to the report, the aide issued an ultimatum to Bennett to apologize for his remarks or leave the government.
Without backtracking, Bennett said expressing a point of view that differs from the prime minister's was not aimed at defaming him. The Prime Minister's Office reportedly accepted his "apology."
Meanwhile, Netanyahu made similar statements in a interview during his first term as prime minister when he called the concept "absurd," the Times reported on Friday.
"Do you know anyone who would support something like that?" Netanyahu said. "Can you find an Israeli who [would] agree to that -- who would agree to live under Palestinian rule? That's absurd."
"That is another way to say, 'we will wipe out these settlements by giving them over to the Palestinian Authority.' That's absurd," he said.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman commended Bennett for his "apology," affirming that the government has no plan to leave Israelis under Palestinian rule.
"There wasn't, there isn't and there won't be an intention to leave any Israeli settler under Palestinian sovereignty," Lieberman said. The foreign minister added that Israel would never cede the Golan Heights, calling the area "an integral and inseparable part of the State of Israel."
Netanyahu has often made the same statement about the Golan.