Few Israelis wished a frontrunner to the correct of Netanyahu. Naftali Bennett is about to oust his outdated boss anyway.
Two years later, he is on the verge of turning into the nation’s subsequent prime minister.
He’ll sit alongside politicians with utterly opposing ideologies to his personal.
Bennett lies to the correct even of Netanyahu in a number of essential areas. He would carry into workplace a historical past of incendiary remarks about Palestinians and a well-documented ambition to annex a part of the occupied West Financial institution.
Few Israelis voted for Bennett’s Yamina occasion in March elections, selecting up simply 7 seats in comparison with Netanyahu’s 30. However Bennett discovered himself the kingmaker, wooed by each Netanyahu and Lapid who wanted his occasion’s help with the intention to type a majority.
How a lot of his agenda Bennett can obtain whereas constrained in an awkwardly assembled coalition stays to be seen. But when the deal stands, the Yamina chief — for therefore lengthy a supporting character in Israel’s high-stakes political spectacle — might change into a serious participant on the world scene.
A staunch critic of the two-state answer
Born in Haifa to immigrants from San Francisco, Bennett served in an elite unit of the Israel Protection Forces, earlier than learning legislation at Hebrew College. He then grew to become an entrepreneur, launching a tech start-up in 1999 which he later offered for $145 million.
He entered Israeli politics beneath Netanyahu’s wing years later, although the 2 fell out after he was dismissed as chief of workers in 2008. Bennett made his personal title nationally in 2013 because the chief of the pro-settler occasion Jewish Dwelling, making his want to forestall the formation of a Palestinian state a central plank of his pitch to voters. After a merger with one other occasion, he rebranded the occasion “Yamina” in 2019.
Over the approaching years Bennett held a number of posts in Netanyahu’s varied governments, together with as minister of Protection, whereas persevering with to outflank Netanyahu on points referring to the Palestinian territories.
He has persistently held agency to his opposition to a two-state decision since then, citing safety and ideological considerations as his reasoning.
Throughout the latest battle between Israel and Hamas-led militants in Gaza, Bennett stated the Palestinians might have turned Gaza “right into a paradise.”
“They determined to show it right into a terrorist state,” Bennett instructed CNN’s Becky Anderson final month, earlier than a ceasefire was agreed. “The second they determine that they do not wish to annihilate us, this all ends.”
Bennett has railed in opposition to authorities regulation of the non-public sector and labor unions.
In current months, Bennett has change into a thorn in Netanyahu’s aspect, fiercely criticizing his pandemic dealing with in addition to the nation’s interminable political impasse.
4 elections in two years have left the nation in flux, with Netanyahu concurrently showing to be each stubbornly unmovable but perpetually on the cusp of shedding energy.
Bennett instructed CNN final month that in comparison with his time within the tech sector and within the navy, Israel’s politics was “fairly a large number.”
“After 4 elections and an additional two months, it has been confirmed to all of us that there’s merely no right-wing authorities doable that’s headed by Netanyahu,” Bennett stated in a speech on Sunday, shortly earlier than he reached a cope with Lapid, a person he now refers to as his “good friend.”
The 2 are unlikely bedfellows. A charismatic former TV anchor, Lapid has expressed help for a two-state answer with the Palestinians in addition to strikes to scale back the affect of faith in Israel, together with by creating civil marriages.
How a lot of his private ideology Bennett can enact, ought to he reach turning into prime minister, is an open query.
He has already hinted that the federal government would rely closely on compromise to perform. “The left is making tough compromises to permit me … to change into prime minister,” he stated Sunday. “Everybody should postpone the conclusion of a few of their goals.”
However within the coming days, Bennett might be targeted on attaining a extra instant dream.
The coalition settlement should go a vote of confidence within the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, earlier than a brand new authorities and Prime Minister are sworn in.
Based on Israeli legislation, the Knesset should additionally maintain a vote of confidence inside every week of being formally notified of a brand new authorities being shaped. This step won’t occur till Monday, which implies the vote could possibly be held as late as June 14.
Meaning there’s nonetheless time for Netanyahu and his allies to persuade members of parliament to defect from the coalition, or in some way tie issues up procedurally in parliament. A collapse of the ceasefire with the Hamas-led militants in Gaza or one other exterior occasion might additionally topple the burgeoning new authorities.
But when Bennett and Lapid’s coalition can maintain agency, they’d convey weeks (or years) of political maneuvering to an in depth — and pull off a as soon as unbelievable deal that might elevate Bennett to Israel’s highest workplace.
CNN’s Hadas Gold contributed reporting. Further reporting by Reuters.