He was in turn advisor to Benyamin Netanyahu then his rival while remaining an essential partner: the millionaire Naftali Bennett, leader of the radical right, could succeed his mentor and become the prime minister of Israel.
Bald head, discreet and English American kippah, Naftali Bennett heads the Yamina formation which advocates both economic ultra-liberalism, a hard line against Iran or the annexation of nearly two-thirds of the West Bank, a Palestinian territory occupied by the Israeli army since 1967.
For a long time, Mr. Bennett had played on two sides and left the doubt on his intention to deliver, or not, the final blow to Benyamin Netanyahu, in power for fifteen years. His rallying to the anti-Netanyahu bloc, an explosive alliance that goes from the left to his right-wing party through the support of Arab deputies, was negotiated at a high price: the post of head of government first which will then be taken over by Yaïr Lapid, the leader of the opposition who managed to get the parties to agree to such a coalition.
Five ministerial portfolios
The 49-year-old businessman, who made his fortune in tech, entered politics late. But since 2013, this figure of the current “Religious nationalist” and close to the settlers, held five ministerial portfolios. The last, that of defense in 2020, led him at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic in Israel to organize a spectacular mobilization of the army to manage the crisis. “A tailor-made image for an audience desperately looking for a legitimate replacement for Netanyahu”, note Evan Gottesman de l’Israel Policy Forum.
If the coalition deal is approved by parliament, Naftali Bennett would be the first religious head of government in Jewish state history to wear a kippah or strictly observe Shabbat.
The one killed politically two years ago, and who scored poorly in the last legislative elections in March, has managed to maneuver in recent weeks to impose himself as “Kingsmaker” in the complex negotiations to form a government coalition.
A hard straight line
“The left makes compromises far from easy, when it grants me (…) the role of prime minister ”Mr. Bennett, who has built his entire political career on a hard right-wing and partisan of Greater Israel, said at the start of the negotiations.
Son of American immigrants born March 25, 1972 in Haifa (north), Naftali Bennett who served in the prestigious Sayeret Matkal unit, like Benjamin Netanyahu, established himself at the turn of the 2000s as one of the tenors of the « start-up nation » with his cybersecurity company Cyotta sold for 145 million dollars in 2005. The following year, he made the leap into politics for Likud where he became the right hand of Benyamin Netanyahu.
Two years later, Naftali Bennett left Likud to head for a time the Council of Yesha, the main organization representing Israeli settlers in the West Bank, which would become his political business, even though he had never lived in one of these. controversial settlements.
In 2012, he took the reins of the right-wing Foyer Juif, which then joined other micro-parties to form Yamina (“right”). The Yamina party, known for its muse, Ayelet Shaked, is today led by Naftali Bennett. And the latter succeeded in seducing some of the settlers with muscular nationalist remarks.
Example? The conflict with the Palestinians could not be settled but endured as a “Shrapnel in the buttocks”. Or again: there is no Israeli occupation in the West Bank because “There has never been a Palestinian state”. See: the “Terrorists must be killed not released”, terms launched with regard to Palestinian prisoners. For example, he had promised Iran a « Vietnam » if the Islamic Republic continued, according to him, to establish itself militarily in neighboring Syria.
But Naftali Bennett, father of four children and living in the wealthy city of Raanana (center), also stands out in his religious right-wing milieu: questions about the place of religion in the State are not in his priorities and he embodies a certain liberalism of values, especially for example on LGBTQ issues.