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Who is Naftali Bennett, Israel's New Leader?

By FnF Desk | PUBLISHED: 14, Jun 2021, 17:59 pm IST | UPDATED: 15, Jun 2021, 11:55 am IST

Who is Naftali Bennett, Israel's New Leader? London: In a seismic shift in Israel’s political scenario, Naftali Bennett, who has partnered with centrist and left-wing parties to form eight party coalition outsed the longest-serving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to sworn in on Sunday as Israel's new prime minister.

Netanyahu, 71, who remained at the helm for almost 12 years at a stretch, is popular as "King Bibi" by his right-wing supporters and condemned as the "crime minister" by his critics. Netanyahu has been embroiled in corruption charges and fighting legal trial which he dismisses as a conspiracy, has held a dominant position in Israeli politics who served a previous three-year term in the 1990s.

Bennett, a former leader of Yesha, the main settler movement in the West Bank, the leader made annexation of parts of the territory captured by Israel in a 1967 war as the major poll plank. Known as right-wing Jewish nationalist and former tech millionaire, a religious Jew who raked in money in the mostly secular hi-tech sector, and also a former ally of Benjamin Netanyahu.

Born to American parents who were settled in Haifa, Bennett later kept juggling with his family between North America and Israel, He also joined military service besies attending law school, and worked in the private sector.

Bennett has four children, and known to be a modern Orthodox Jew regularly doning a kippa, the skullcap worn by observant Jews. The leader lives in the upscale Tel Aviv suburb of Raanana, instead of the settlements he champions.

Bennett’s ultranationalist Yamina party managed to win only seven seats in the 120-member Knesset in March elections, the fourth such vote in two years.

The new Prime Minister is opposed to Palestinian independence and strongly supports Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, which remains one of the major confrontations in the region.

Bennett has strongly opposed Netanyahu's decision to slow settlement construction under pressure from President Barack Obama, who tried and failed to revive the peace process early in his first term.

He has served in the elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit and later went to law school at Hebrew University. In 1999, Bennett co-founded Cyota, an anti-fraud software company that was sold in 2005 to US-based RSA Security for $145 million.

In his political career, he was the leader of the West Bank settler’s council, Yesha for a brief time before joining the Knesset in 2013. Later he became a cabinet minister of diaspora affairs, education, and defense in various Netanyahu-led governments.

The 49-year-old father of four has a similar approach to Netanyahu as far as the Middle East conflict is concerned, but the two have had tense relations over the years.

Bennett served as Netanyahu's chief of staff for two years, but drifted away later due to Netanyahu’s wife, as the media claimed she wielded great influence over her husband's inner circle.