After four elections in two years, Israel is finally seeing a new government, one that has finally ousted the country's longest-serving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
While the long Israeli political crisis is multi-faceted, the dissatisfaction towards Netanyahu's reign has brought the country's extreme right-wing and the country's left-wing together, forming the first non-Likud government in about 12 years.
Yesterday, the Israeli Knesset approved the new government, headed by Naftali Bennett as Prime Minister. But how much do we know about him?
1. He was born in Haifa to American parents who immigrated from San Francisco, CA in 1967.
2. His mother had urged the family's return to the US after Naftali was born in 1972.
A child of 2 californians from San Francisco.— Abier Khatib (@abierkhatib) June 14, 2021
Zionists: “We are the indigenous people. Stop being antisemitic” pic.twitter.com/nFxEqVv3ym
3. His father, Jim Bennett, returned to Israel in 1973 to volunteer in the Israeli army in the wake of the 1973 war with Egypt and Syria, serving in the artillery unit on the Occupied Golan Heights.
4. Throughout his childhood, Naftali's family lived in Haifa, Montreal, and New Jersey.
5. Attending high school in Haifa, Naftali became a youth leader for a religious Zionist youth group called Bnei Akiva.
This guy: now prime minister of #ApartheidIsrael is first generation Israeli. His parents are Americans from San Francisco. My mom and her parents and grand parents and great grand patents and great great grand parents were born in Palestine and she cant visit her birth city. pic.twitter.com/fVE4VuPzAS— Samar D Jarrah (@SamarDJarrah) June 14, 2021
6. By the age of 18, he was drafted into the Israeli army, serving within Palestinian territories during the First Intifada (1987-1993) and the South of Lebanon during the Israeli occupation that ended in 2000.
7. During the 1996 Israeli military operation Grapes of Wrath, Bennett was an officer in the Israeli army who may have been responsible for the Qana massacre.
As a young officer, Naftali Bennett was involved in the shelling that killed 102 people in Lebanese village Kafr Qana in 1996. “On the communications network, the young officer, Bennett, sounded hysterical, and his pressure contributed more than a little to the terrible error.” pic.twitter.com/TcZwwV6yrP— Rad (@sb93108) June 3, 2021
In 2015, Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth stirred controversy over the possible role of Naftali Bennett in the Qana massacre in Southern Lebanon, in which over 100 Lebanese civilians were killed at a UN shelter, most of whom were children. The massacre then triggered major international condemnation.
8. Upon being discharged from the army, Bennett, a US citizen then, moved to Manhattan, where he led a successful tech career.
Establishing Cyota, an anti-fraud software, Bennett achieved major success as an entrepreneur. By 2005, he became a multimillionaire.
He was also the CEO of technology company Soluto and is reported to have made $5 million from his investment in the American fintech company Payoneer.
9. Netanyahu had helped Bennett start his political career in Israel in 2006.
While it might sound ironic considering Bennett's latest role was literally ending Netanyahu's political career, he was appointed as chief of staff by Netanyahu himself between 2006 and 2008, assigned to "developing an educational reform plan." Bennett was then a member of the Likud party.
10. Being a strong believer in the settlements' movement, he led right-wing efforts against the settlement freeze from 2010 until 2012.
11. With his long-time supporter Ayelet Shaked and right-wing figure, Naftali Bennett co-founded the My Israel movement in 2011.
12. His Yisraelim movement founded in 2012 aimed at increasing dialogue between religious and secular communities in Israel to promote Zionism.
13. Stirred Controversy in 2013 when he stated "there is nothing wrong in killing many Arabs."
Welcome to Israel’s new prime minister: Naftali Bennett.— Ariel Gold אריאל 🕎 ☮️🔥✡️ (@ArielElyseGold) June 13, 2021
🧵2013: “I’ve killed a lot of Arabs in my life and there’s no problem with that.” pic.twitter.com/explTtlAWW
14. Naftali had to renounce his US citizenship in 2013 to take his Knesset seat.
15. Joined the Jewish Home political party in 2013.
16. Joined a number of Israeli governments as;
- Minister of the Economy and Minister of Religious Services
- Minister of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs
- Minister of Education
- Minister of Defense
17. In 2019, Naftali released a video in which he attacked the European Union, namely France and the then-EU-member the UK.
Shame on you, Europe! pic.twitter.com/6cLYvHdCcH— Naftali Bennett בנט (@naftalibennett) March 27, 2019
The angry video came in response to the EU stance on 1967 territories, not recognizing Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, both deemed illegally occupied as per international law.
18. Opposes the two-state solution and the one-state solution
The new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has repeatedly announced his rejection of both solutions, saying that Israel will "not give up its sovereignty over the West Bank."
Amid the 2021 May war in Gaza, he told CNN's Becky Anderson that Palestinians "already have their own state in Gaza." He also opposes the one-state solution saying that "Palestinians living under Israeli rule have no political rights in Israel as they get to elect their leadership in the PA elections."
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