Israel’s ultra-nationalist leader Naftali Bennett is poised to become the country’s next prime minister after parliament votes for a new government on Sunday, ending Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year hold on power.
The new coalition consists of eight parties from across Israel’s political spectrum; including a small Arab party, which makes it extremely fragile.
The disparate opposition parties have come together, mainly, to keep Netanyahu out of the office and avoid another election.
Naftali Bennett, 49, has served as minister of defence as well as; of education and the economy in various governments under the leadership of Netanyahu.
Born in the Israeli city of Haifa to immigrants from San Francisco, California, Bennett stormed into national politics in 2013 after renouncing his US citizenship.
The far-right Yamina party leader is a religious ultranationalist; who supports the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the annexation of most of the occupied region.
Bennett made the annexation of parts of the West Bank; that Israel captured in a 1967 war a major feature of his political platform.
He is against a two-state solution and argues that; a Palestinian state would be suicide for Israel due to security reasons.
Last year, as Netanyahu pushed the West Bank annexation plan and settlement building during the final months of the Trump administration; Bennett, then defence chief, said, “The building momentum in the country must not be stopped, even for a second.”
The plan was eventually scrapped as Israel moved to normalise ties with the UAE under Abraham Accords.
Following through on expansion will now be politically unfeasible since the so-called “change” coalition, which relies on the support of the United Arab List; a small party with Islamist roots, would collapse even if one party bolts.
Bennett, also a self-made tech millionaire, formed a start-up in 1999 and then moved to New York; eventually selling his anti-fraud software company, Cyota, to US security firm RSA for $145 million in 2005.
He studied law at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University.