Who is the man likely to be the next Israeli Prime Minister?

Yesterday, Naftali Bennett announced that his party, Yamina, would form a coalition with other parties to replace Benjamin Netanyahu as leader. Under this coalition deal, Bennett will become Prime Minister for the first two years of the government. So, who is Naftali Bennett?

Bennett is an ultranationalist with extreme far-right beliefs in relation to Palestine. He opposes any kind of self-determination for Palestinians and has been on record many times supporting systematic discrimination perpetrated against Palestinians in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank.

He regards all of historic Palestine as “the Land of Israel”. This includes the occupied West Bank and Gaza strip. He believes that two-state solution is a threat, and does not believe that there should be a Palestinian state.[1] He denies the existence of a Palestinian state or Palestinian nationality, saying “there was never a Palestinian state here”, and believes that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could not be resolved but must be “endured”.[2]

He is a firm supporter of the illegal settlements in the West Bank, saying that settlers should “build build build” in order to undermine Palestinian claims to the area. He was a member of the main political body representing settlers (the “Yesha Council) from 2010 to 2012.[3] He has spoken in support of annexing “Area C”, which comprises over 70% of the West Bank.[4]

Bennett has repeatedly spoken approvingly of the use of violence against Palestinians. In 2018, he said that if he was Defense Minister, he would operate a “shoot-to-kill” policy against Palestinians in Gaza, describing Palestinian children as “terrorists” and saying they would not be exempt from such a policy.[5] In 2013, he boasted of how he had “killed a lot of Arabs in my life”, during his time in the army, saying that there is “no problem with that”.[6]

He has even sought to be more extreme than Netanyahu in relation to anti-Palestinian policies. In the last months of the Trump administration, he publicly pressured Netanyahu not to ease up on construction of illegal settlements, saying the “building momentum in the country must not be stopped, even for a second”.[7]

With Bennett holding the top position, it is likely that he will block any attempts to move towards more self determination for Palestinians, and will move to continue the systematic denial of rights to Palestinians across historic Palestine. He may even increase the levels of violence and discrimination against Palestinians, as he has often been more extreme than Netanyahu and Likud in relation to Palestine.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/06/opinion/naftali-bennett-for-israel-two-state-is-no-solution.html

[2] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/5/31/naftali-bennett-who-is-israels-new-potential-prime-minister

[3] https://twitter.com/theIMEU/status/1399052112076718080?s=20


[5] https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20181009-israels-bennett-wants-shoot-to-kill-policy-in-gaza/

[6] https://imeu.org/article/quick-facts-naftali-bennett