PORTRAIT – Naftali Bennett became this Sunday, thanks to a coalition game, the 13th Prime Minister of Israel. He succeeds Benjamin Netanyahu, his mentor.
Naftali Bennett ended up having the skin of “Bibi”. After several years spent in the shadow of Benjamin Netanyahu, this figure of the Israeli extreme right became this Sunday evening the new Prime Minister of his country. A consecration for this atypical character who, at only 49 years old, already seems to have several lives.
Son of American immigrants, this native of Haifa began his career in the prestigious military unit “Sayeret Matkal”. He will remain in uniform for six years. After the army, law degree in hand, he took a first 180 degree turn and embarked on new technologies. With some success: with his cybersecurity company Cyotta, he became a figure of the “start-up nation” in Israel before selling his company for 145 million dollars in 2005.
“Terrorists must be killed, not released”
The following year, he decided to start over and made the leap into politics. He joins Likud, the party for which his family has always voted and where he becomes the right-hand man of a certain Benjamin Netanyahu. Very close, the two men quickly distance themselves. Two years later, Naftali Bennett left the party to lead the Yesha Council, the main organization representing Israeli settlers in the West Bank, who would become his political business, even though he had never lived in one of these controversial settlements. .
In 2012, this father of four took the reins of Foyer Juif, the historic settler party which then joined other micro-parties to form “Yamina” (right). It was then that he multiplied for years the muscular nationalist remarks. According to him, there is no Israeli occupation in the West Bank because “there has never been a Palestinian state “. Another shattering statement: the “terrorists must be killed, not released”.
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“A day of change”
However, the one who has held five ministerial portfolios since 2013 has never shown any eagerness to transform these declarations into a real political project. “I am in a comfortable position, always a little to the right of Bibi (Netanyahu editor’s note). When I speak on diplomatic or security issues, he will end up going up a notch to catch up with me,” recognized the principal concerned a few years ago.
Over the years, he becomes an essential figure of the nationalist camp, going from the center right to the extreme right. And thus finds himself on the royal road: despite his low score in the last legislative elections a few weeks ago, he quickly appears as the providential man. But his surprise rallying to the new motley alliance – which ranges from his right-wing party to the left, including the support of an Arab party – has been negotiated at a heavy price. In this case the post of Prime Minister until 2023. “I chose what to do for the good of Israel“, explained in recent days the man who becomes this Sunday the first religious head of government in the history of the country to wear a kippah.
Tonight, when savoring his victory, Naftali Bennet played the card of appeasement, wanting to unite. “I understand that it is not an easy day for many today, but it is not a day of mourning, it is a day of change, of regime change in a democracy “.
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