Israel’s longest serving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to be unseated from power after being in the helm of affairs for the last 12 years. The one who is likely to succeed him is Naftali Bennett, someone from a technical background and who has relatively little experience in politics. Anyway, the new coalition is a surprising one since the extreme-right and centrist parties have joined hands to replace the current Prime Minister.
He will serve as the PM on rotational basis with Yair Lapid, chief of the Yesh Atid, which won 17 seats in the 2021 elections. Thus, his party was the second biggest after Netanyahu’s Likud Party. Besides this will be the first time in Israel’s history that an Arab party, United Arab List will be a coalition partner in the government. It has four seats in the Knesset (Parliament) of 120.
Naftali Bennett who is most likely to succeed Netanyahu as the Prime Minister is much younger than the latter and has American ancestry. His parents came and settled in Israel after the 1967 war but are still Americans. He made millions as a tech entrepreneur in the United States before jumping on the political scene in Israel in 2006. His party, Yamina (which has only 7 members in the Knesset) is an extreme right-wing outfit and takes a religious-nationalist political position.
Earlier this year, Bennett told the Times of Israel: “I’m more right-wing than Bibi (Netanyahu), but I don’t use hate or polarisation as a tool to promote myself politically.”
It needs to be mentioned that in 1999, Naftali Bennett co-founded and co-owned the US company Cyota, operating in the anti-fraud space. The company was sold for $ 145 million in 2005. He has also served as CEO of other companies.
He also served in the military for some years, especially in the Sayeret Matkal commando unit. During the 1982-2000 South Lebanon conflict he had served for some time in the Israeli security zone. He was called up in the 2006 Lebanon War as a reservist and participated in search and destroy missions against the Hezbollah.
He also roots for religious claims to the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. These are the territories which Israel had occupied in the 1967 war.
He entered politics in 2006 and served as Chief of Staff for Prime Minister Netanyahu for two years. In 2012, he was elected as the party leader of The Jewish Home. Under his leadership, the party won 12 out of the 120 seats in the 2013 Knesset elections. He served as Minister of Economy and Religious Services under Prime Minister Netanyahu from 2013 to 2015 and as Minister of Education from 2015 to 2019. He formed a new party in December 2018 named as the New Right. He also served as Minister of Defence between 2019 and 2020 in Netanyahu’s coalition government.
He is a staunch supporter of Israeli settlements and strongly opposed to a Palestinian state. It needs to be recalled that Netanyahu has been of late embroiled in corruption cases because of which his popularity has plummeted in Israel. Earlier this year the Israeli Defence Forces launched an attack on the Palestinian territory of Gaza in which 253 civilians including 66 children were killed.
Many Israeli watchers were of the view that Netanyahu launched this attack on Hamas so that he may get the support of other parties to form the government this time. In the last two years Israel has had four elections yet no party or alliance could get absolute majority. Likud emerged as the largest party with 30 seats.
(Sarim Ahmed is an International Affairs enthusiast. The views are personal)