What to know about Israel’s new premier Naftali Bennett and his stance on Palestine

TEL AVIV: The newly elected Prime Minister of Israel Naftali Bennett, 49, partnered with opposition leader Yair Lapid to form a new Israeli government with the sole agenda of ‘change’.

With a coalition of opposition parties, Bennett succeeded to end the 12-year of Benjamin Netanyahu rule. Bennett was chief of staff to former premier Netanyahu and his small party known as Yanima is popular with religious Jews and West Bank settlers.

Under the coalition, Bennett would be the prime minister for the first two years after which his coalition partner would take over for the remaining two years.

During his address in a raucous debate, he was repeatedly shouted down by Netanyahu’s supporters accusing him of betrayal.

Bennett was born in 1972 in Israel’s Haifa area in an American Jewish family. According to Reuters, Bennett spent his childhood in the United States and he speaks English fluently. He served in the military as a squad and company commander.

He moved to New York by 1999 and cofounded an anti-fraud software company Cyota which he later sold to an American company for $145 million. He also served as the Chief Executive Officer of a device protection company namely Soluto which he sold for $100 million.

Before becoming premier, he lived in the city of Raanana, an affluent suburb of Tel Aviv, with his wife and four children.

Bennett joined politics in 2005 and served as a senior aide to Netanyahu. In 2012, he made his way to the Israeli Parliament known as Knesset using National Religious Party.

Bennett became a lawmaker and further manoeuvred his way to the top of the Yamina Party. The said party is a small group with just seven out of 120 seats in Knesset.

The former elite commando and technology-millionaire-turned politician purportedly named his son after Netanyahu’s brother Yoni, who was killed in 1976 during an Israeli rescue mission to save hijacked passengers at Uganda’s Entebbe airport.

He served as Minister of Defense, Minister of Education, and Minister of Economy in Netanyahu’s government.

Netanyahu’s supporters and Israel’s right-wing parties view Bennett coalition with opposition as a betrayal but both had been in a strong working relationship.

Netanyahu condemned Bennett’s decision as deceptive and accused him of deserting his nationalistic principles “to be prime minister at any price,” calling it the “fraud of the century.”

However, Bennett in a televised address said that he would a national unity government with Lapid to return the country to its course.

Bennett stance in Israeli-Palestinian relations

Earlier, Bennett headed the Yesha Council, the leading Israeli settler movement in the West Bank, which was captured during the 1967 Six-Day War and which Palestinians still contest as their territory, according to the Washington Post.

He, however, reentered into politics and became popular for settlements in the Palestinian territories along with the annexation of the West Bank.

He also helped in the formation of the New Right party in 2018, which has, now, an affiliation with the Yamina Party and strongly opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Bennett believes that the West Bank was not illegally occupied by Jews because there was never a Palestine State. He alleged relations between Israel the Palestinian territories must be endured like “shrapnel in the buttocks.”

Biden praises the regime change

President Joe Biden has congratulated Israeli Prime Minister Bennett, saying the US would remain unwavering in its support for Israel’s security.

Biden, in a statement addressed to Bennett and other incoming cabinet members, said that his administration was fully committed to working with the new Israeli government to enhance security, stability, and peace for Israelis, Palestinians, and people throughout the broader region.

Bennett also tweeted and thanked President Biden, saying, “I look forward to working with you to strengthen the ties between our two nations.”

US Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken in a similarly worded statement said that the US would remain committed to Israel’s security, further adding that the Biden administration looked forward to strengthening all aspects of the partnership for a more secure and prosperous future.

US Jews welcome new government

American Jewish and pro-Israel groups have warmly welcomed the new Israeli government, expressing hope that premier Bennett with his team would bring political stability and a broad-based government reflecting a diverse Israeli society.

Terming a historic day, Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt in a statement congratulated the people of Israel and said that the new government proudly reflected Israel’s broad and diverse societal makeup with political parties from the left to the right, according to Jerusalem Post.

World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder also applauded Israel and congratulated the leaders of Israel’s political parties on the formation of a government of national unity.

Likewise, the North American Reform Movement which is the largest Jewish movement outside of Israel has also expressed hope that the new regime would renew ties with the movement in Israel and abroad, committing to furthering a pluralistic agenda. American Jewish Committee (AJC) CEO David Harris has expressed excitement about working with a new Israeli coalition.

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