Is he first of all a religious extremist, an ultranationalist defender of the settlers, a millionaire businessman or a former special forces agent? Even though they know the former minister and founder of the Yamina (New Right) party well, Israeli journalists struggle to paint a portrait of Naftali Bennett, 49, their new prime minister.

“Bennett the Riddle”, some headlines. One thing is certain, his ability to maintain ties with the “four tribes” that make up Israel today and that former President Reuven Rivlin used to describe (secular Zionist, religious Zionist, Arab and ultra-Orthodox) in made the man for the job.

→ ANALYSIS. Israel: Naftali Bennett elected, Netanyahu is already preparing his return

An asset in a country more divided than ever, for his ally Yair Lapid, whose government has just passed the test by fire on Sunday, June 13 in the Knesset.

Military, businessman then politician

Stocky with a round face, this son of American immigrants, born in Haifa, keeps the physique of the soldier he was in his young years: member of an elite commando, of which he was one of the few practicing Jews. , he participated in the offensive against Hezbollah in Lebanon, and ordered the bombing of a United Nations building housing civilians. Even today, he sometimes boasts of having “Killed many Arabs”

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After this – brief – military career, Naftali Bennett started a second life, this time in business and especially in high technology. An originality for a “religious” like him. A few years later, the sale of his start-up Cyota, specializing in the fight against online fraud, gave him plenty of money to stop working and, at the age of 35, to embark on what would be his third adventure: politics. .

Here too, Naftali Bennett has long sought his way. Several times minister in various coalitions, he belonged to “Five parties in less than fifteen years”, remind the bad tongues, who are already wondering what he will do “After politics”. After organizing Benyamin Netanyahu’s campaign in 2006, he joined the declining Jewish Home party, and ended up creating his own party, Yamina. The defense of the settlers, the opposition to the “two-state solution” and the annexation of all or part of the Palestinian Territories are the real red threads of his commitment.

An unclassifiable prime minister

But for the rest, the new prime minister is quite unclassifiable: a supporter of the far right capable of joining demonstrations for social justice in 2011 to broaden his audience; a supporter of the settlements but who has never lived there himself and lives in an upscale suburb of Tel Aviv; or even a “religious” familiar with the secular world.

His relationship to Judaism, in particular, intrigues commentators. It was in a kindergarten of the Lubavitcher movement that he became familiar with religion, to the point of then inciting his parents to follow him to the synagogue. Never before had a prime minister worn the kippah, a sign of observant Judaism, but his wife Gilat, with whom he is said to have cohabited before marriage, a strangeness in the Orthodox world, is described in the media as a “Lay observant of the Sabbath”.

His Yamina party, which won 7 seats in the last election, is far from being the backbone of Israeli politics. But that’s where luck comes in, and probably also political flair. In a parliament fractured into a myriad of formations, that of Naftali Bennett obtained just the size necessary to transform him into a “kingmaker”.

Today everyone is wondering how they will take over their new position. “Despite its name, Lapid and Bennett have indicated that the Coalition for Change will not consider any policy changes on Israeli-Palestinian issues. It will focus on the areas on which an agreement within it is possible: the economy, infrastructure and basic policies blocked due to the political deadlock of the last two years ”, writes the International Crisis Group. More “Regarding the hotbeds of conflict in East Jerusalem, such as Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan”, the second should hardly contribute to ” calm tensions down “.


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