Who is Naftali Bennett? Neftali Bennett is the leader of Israel’s Jewish Home party, is considered one of the country’s most hawkish politicians.
Bennett has been in the Knesset since 2013, representing Israel’s religious nationalist religious right-wing, and has been Minister of Education since 2016. He’s also been a member of the security cabinet since 2016. Jewish Home is a coalition of eight right-wing and religious parties. The party is frequently aligned with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition.
Naftali Bennett, 49, was born in Boston and grew up in an observant Jewish family. He currently lives in Mevasseret Zion, a suburb of Jerusalem. According to the Israeli daily Yediot Acharonot, Bennett educated at a high school for ultra-Orthodox youth and started writing about religion in the 1990s.
He holds an economics degree and a law degree from the University of Texas at Austin. The Daily Beast reported that he briefly served in the Israel Defense Forces in the 1990s. Bennett has been compared to Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States. Like Dermer, Bennett is a political powerhouse in his home country and has ambitions to be the country’s prime minister.
Where does Naftali Bennett stand on the Jewish state?
Bennett’s political party is opposed to a Palestinian state and supports Jewish settlement in the West Bank. His platform has also called for legislation to end gender segregation at the city’s Western Wall and for the relocation of the Al-Aqsa mosque to Jerusalem, its holy site. He has promoted a “return” to Jewish settlement in Palestinian cities, which he defines as the “Judaized” villages of Wadi Joz and Bilin.
He also said he is “on the side of the settler” and has backed the expansion of the settlement of Beit El. During a 2015 protest outside the Har Adar settlement, he threatened “action in the next war” and called for the arrests of anti-settlement demonstrators. He said the protest was a “march of terror.” In 2014, while still a member of the opposition, Bennett visited an Arab-owned kibbutz but refused to shake the hand of the village’s owner.
Is Naftali Bennett gay?
Some have raised the question, but Bennett has been consistently forthright in his views about the Orthodox movement. In 2012, in response to an inquiry about his sexuality. Bennett told Israeli public radio, “I’ve never had a homosexual relationship, so no, I am not a homosexual.”
Naftali Bennett married Malki, now 45, in 1999.
A profile of Naftali Bennett in the New Yorker in 2015 claimed he was “openly gay”. But noted, “A person can be what they want to be.” The New Yorker profile noted that in a 2011 interview with the Guardian newspaper. Bennett “said that if there was a gay pride parade in the Israeli defence establishment, he would march in it.”
In the same interview, Bennett called the 1967 Mideast war “wrong” and said he was in favour of moving the Palestinian capital from West to East Jerusalem, according to the New Yorker profile. He has called for expanding Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and East Jerusalem settlements. Bennett also called for deporting West Bank Arabs and constructing a third Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem.
Why is Bennett so important to Netanyahu?
Netanyahu and his coalition depend on Bennett’s political party to hold his government together. He also controls a large block in the coalition. Bennett’s party is the third-largest in the Knesset with 12 seats.
What are the odds of Bennett becoming Israel’s next prime minister?
There is speculation that Bennett could move up to Netanyahu’s cabinet or the top leadership post in the Likud party. Naftali Bennett has already proven himself to be a fierce political combatant. And if he were to move into the Likud leadership. It would upend the current ruling coalition, leaving Netanyahu without a majority in the Knesset.
Scenarios, where Naftali Bennett becomes prime minister. Include if Netanyahu loses the support of any other coalition partners or a serious public scandal. Bennett said he has “interested in strengthening the right-wing in the Israeli public”. But noted that the party would vote for Netanyahu’s coalition if he asked it to. He told the Washington Blade in 2016, “When [Bennett] was prime minister [in the 1990s], there was no Palestinian state, I was out there with settlers.”
Is Israel changing under Bennett?
In March, Israel passed its historic Land Day legislation that allowed the state to expropriate up to 50 per cent of privately-owned Palestinian land in areas in the West Bank where Israel has settled. The Israeli government approved the legislation, despite vociferous opposition from the international community.
It aims to make room for new Jewish settlements on the land. On Monday, the U.N. human rights office urged Israel to put an end to the “disproportionate use of force” by its security forces against Palestinian protesters.