Naftali Bennett, who was sworn in Sunday as Israel’s new prime minister, embodies most of the contradictions that outline the 73-year-old nation.
He’s a spiritual Jew who made millions in the mostly secular hi-tech sector; a champion of the settlement motion who lives in a Tel Aviv suburb; a former ally of Benjamin Netanyahu who has partnered with centrist and left-wing events to finish his 12-year rule.
His ultranationalist Yamina occasion gained simply seven seats within the 120-member Knesset in March elections — the fourth such vote in two years. But by refusing to decide to Netanyahu or his opponents, Bennett positioned himself as kingmaker. Even after one member of his non secular nationalist occasion deserted him to protest the new coalition deal, he ended up with the crown.
AN ULTRANATIONALIST WITH A MODERATE COALITION
Bennett has lengthy positioned himself to the suitable of Netanyahu. But he will probably be severely constrained by his unwieldy coalition, which has solely a slender majority in parliament and consists of events from the suitable, left and centre.
He is against Palestinian independence and strongly helps Jewish settlements within the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians and far of the worldwide neighborhood see as a serious impediment to peace.
Bennett fiercely criticised Netanyahu after the prime minister agreed to sluggish settlement development beneath strain from President Barack Obama, who tried and didn’t revive the peace course of early in his first time period.
He briefly served as head of the West Bank settler’s council, Yesha, earlier than coming into the Knesset in 2013.
Bennett later served as cupboard minister of diaspora affairs, training and protection in varied Netanyahu-led governments.
“He’s a right-wing leader, a security hard-liner, but at the same time very pragmatic,” stated Yohanan Plesner, head of the Israel Democracy Institute, who has identified Bennett for many years and served with him within the army.
He expects Bennett to have interaction with different factions to discover a “common denominator” as he seeks assist and legitimacy as a nationwide chief.
RIVALRY WITH NETANYAHU
The 49-year-old father of 4 shares Netanyahu’s hawkish method to the Middle East battle, however the two have had tense relations over time.
Bennett served as Netanyahu’s chief of workers for 2 years, however they parted methods after a mysterious falling out that Israeli media linked to Netanyahu’s spouse, Sara, who wields nice affect over her husband’s inside circle.
Bennett campaigned as a right-wing stalwart forward of the March elections and signed a pledge on nationwide TV saying he would by no means permit Yair Lapid, a centrist and Netanyahu’s major rival, to develop into prime minister.
But when it grew to become clear Netanyahu was unable to kind a ruling coalition, that is precisely what Bennett did, agreeing to function prime minister for 2 years earlier than handing energy to Lapid, the architect of the new coalition.
Netanyahu’s supporters have branded Bennett a traitor, saying he defrauded voters.
Bennett has defended his resolution as a realistic transfer geared toward unifying the nation and avoiding a fifth spherical of elections.
A GENERATIONAL SHIFT
Bennett, a father of 4 and a contemporary Orthodox Jew, will probably be Israel’s first prime minister who often wears a kippa, the skullcap worn by observant Jews. He lives within the upscale Tel Aviv suburb of Raanana, somewhat than the settlements he champions.
Bennett started life together with his American-born mother and father in Haifa, then bounced together with his household between North America and Israel, army service, regulation faculty and the personal sector.
Throughout, he is curated a persona that is directly trendy, non secular and nationalist.
After serving within the elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit, Bennett went to regulation faculty at Hebrew University.
In 1999, he co-founded Cyota, an anti-fraud software program firm that was bought in 2005 to US-based RSA Security for $145 million.
Bennett has stated the bitter expertise of Israel’s 2006 struggle towards the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah drove him to politics. The month-long struggle ended inconclusively, and Israel’s army and political management on the time was broadly criticised as bungling the marketing campaign.
Bennett represents a 3rd era of Israeli leaders, after the founders of the state and Netanyahu’s era, which got here of age in the course of the nation’s tense early years marked by repeated wars with Arab states.
“He’s Israel 3.0,” Anshel Pfeffer, a columnist for Israel’s left-leaning Haaretz newspaper, wrote in a latest profile of Bennett.
“A Jewish nationalist but not really dogmatic. A bit religious, but certainly not devout.
A military man who prefers the comforts of civilian urban life and a high-tech entrepreneur who isn’t looking to make any more millions. A supporter of the Greater Land of Israel but not a settler. And he may well not be a lifelong politician either.”