S ome political analysts believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s days in office are numbered, and some polls show that the right-wing camp has already chosen his successor — Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home party. For his part, Bennett, who serves as minister of education in Netanyahu’s cabinet, is downplaying the succession talk and insists the current government, and Netanyahu, have a lot of life left to them.

Mr. Bennett, many chareidi voters remember well that you were a member of the previous Netanyahu coalition that included Yair Lapid. Some chareidim accused you of selling them out. Today, you are enjoying a renaissance with the chareidi public and its leadership. Can we trust that this new partnership will not fall apart?

The previous government you referred to was established because it was politically expedient. Netanyahu did not want my party, so I only joined forces with Lapid so that we would not be left out of the coalition. That partnership did not prove itself viable and the coalition was bursting with internal contradictions, including issues of state and religion, as well as diplomatic and political matters. Our current government is far more homogeneous. There are differences of opinion, but they are contained on the inside. The government is a right-wing, Jewish government. Everyone is on the same page on that. It’s the healthiest government composition for the State of Israel and that is why I don’t want a situation where we go back to a Lapid government.

You contend we have a stable government, but we are embroiled in a series of ongoing scandals surrounding the prime minister. Can this government survive under such pressures?

Almost every prime minister in recent decades has come under investigation, from Ariel Sharon to Ehud Olmert, and yes, Netanyahu as well. I hope that the authorities expedite the process and arrive at a conclusion so that we don’t have to live under a cloud. But I don’t think investigations necessitate drastic moves such as disbanding the government and going to elections.

Have you set a deadline for how long you will continue to provide a safety net to this government? Is it possible that we will reach a point that you will show Netanyahu the way out?

It’s in the interest of the citizens of the State of Israel for this government to complete its term. All ministries are functioning, and in all areas we are headed in the right direction. Why destroy it? It will probably take at least a year and a quarter for all of these investigations to run their course, and by then, we will already be quite close to the next, regularly scheduled election date [November 2019]. Even if there will be an indictment, we haven’t decided on a course of action. In contrast to the law requiring an indicted cabinet minister to step down, the prime minister is an exception to this, and I think that’s the way it should be. I have read all of the news stories and I am not at all sure there will be an indictment. If it happens, we’ll meet and take all the angles into consideration before deciding. It will depend on the diplomatic, security, and economic situation at the time. We will not make decisions because of media pressure.

Some polls show that you are the preferred candidate of right-wing voters after Netanyahu. However, other surveys show your prime-ministerial aspirations could be actualized if you jumped to the Likud. Do you have a target date for switching over to the Likud?

I have no intention of switching anywhere. I believe that if we open our party further, to the secular, the chareidim, and even to the Druze, we can grow dramatically and reach dozens of mandates. That may sound far-fetched, but the achievements we have made to date were far harder and more dramatic than the tasks we have yet to accomplish.

Do you feel capable and prepared for what is arguably one of the most difficult jobs in the world?

I come with a lot more experience than Netanyahu had when he took the job the first time. I have already served five years in the cabinet. I served in senior positions in the IDF. I managed a high-tech company with hundreds of employees, so I feel that I can fill this role. Of course, until you get there, you can’t be 100% prepared, but I do feel prepared for all the parameters of the job. Baruch Hashem, we have a prime minister who we stand behind and I’m in no hurry. But when the time comes, I think that, absolutely, I can fulfill that role.

How attentive is the prime minister to your party and its agenda?

It’s no secret that we have a tremendous influence on the government’s policies. There is hardly a goal that we have not attained. On the political-security front, we are also seeing our policies come to fruition. We have removed the phrase “Palestinian state” from the agenda of both the prime minister and the Americans. We have brought about the end of the dreadful policy of releasing prisoners. And we have passed the Arrangements Law [legalizing Jewish settlements in the West Bank retroactively] against the position of the prime minister. We will pass the Jerusalem Law [to require an 80-vote supermajority to cede any parts of Jerusalem in a peace treaty]. We haven’t had 100% success, but where we haven’t succeeded, it’s not our party that has lost — it’s the State of Israel that is losing. Look at what happened with the metal detectors [on Har HaBayis] for example. In the first cabinet meeting, I was able to persuade the cabinet to install the magnetometers. In the second vote, I was against capitulation at any cost. We failed, and we saw how it ended. When you don’t convey steadfastness and faith in the virtue of your path, it never ends well.

You have spoken publicly about your close cooperation and shared values with the chareidi parties. That manifests itself mainly in your close relationship with Health Minister Yaakov Litzman. Have you ever considered establishing a united religious front that would include all chareidi and national religious parties?

I don’t see such a political unification but I do see continued close ties with the chareidim. It’s no secret that I have a close connection with Reb Litzman and that we have made a strategic pact, politically. I also have excellent connections with Aryeh Deri and Yaakov Margi [of Shas] and a working relationship with Moshe Gafni [UTJ]. We work very well together. Ultimately, there is a need for chareidi parties. Religious Zionists are fully integrated in all systems, while the chareidim are separate and thus need special representation. There is no doubt that all Israelis have learned to appreciate the chareidim, especially because of Reb Litzman’s activities. He has proven that he works on behalf of all of Israel’s citizens, and has made, and is continuing to make, a big kiddush Hashem. (Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 675)