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Naftali Bennett

(1972 - )

Naftali Bennett is a former software entrepreneur and an Israeli politician. He is the current leader of The Jewish Home political party and the Minister of Economy and Trade in the 33rd Government of the State of Israel.

Bennett (born March 25, 1972) was born in Haifa. to an Americna Jewish couple who had immigrated to Israel just after the Six Day War in 1967. He is the youngest of three sons.

Growing up Bennett attended a religious high school and was a youth leader in Bnei Akiva. He served in the Israel Defense Forces in the elite special forces commando unit Sayeret Matkal as well as the special forces unit Maglan. After his service he earned a law degree at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

From 2006 to 2008, Bennett served as Benjamin Netanyahu's Chief of Staff. In 2010 he was chosen to be the Director General of the Yesha Council and worked against a settlement freeze.

In April 2012, Bennett broke away from the Likud Party and joined The Jewish Home (Habayit Hayehudi, in Hebrew). In the January 2013 Knesset elections, Bennett's party won 12 seats in the parliament, making it the fifth largest party in the legistlature.  In March 2013, Bennett and Yair Lapid, the head of the Yesh Atid Party, joined forces with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a coalition government. Bennett was rewarded with the position of Minister of Economy and Trade. He was also appointed Minister of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs.

Bennett was appointed Minister of Education, and Minister of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs following the election in March 2015. Netanyahu split the Ministry of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs, initially taking back the Jerusalem Affairs portfolio for himself. In October 2015, Bennett resigned from the Knesset to allow Shuli Mualem take his seat. His resignation took place under the Norwegian Law, which allowed ministers to resign their seats when in the cabinet but return to the Knesset if they leave the government. He returned to the Knesset in December 2015 after Avi Wortzman opted to vacate his seat.

In December 2018, Bennett was among the Jewish Home MKs to leave the party and form the breakaway New Right Party.

In the 2019 Knesset elections, New Right narrowly failed to cross the electoral threshold; as a result, Bennett did not gain a seat in the 21st Knesset. In June 2019, Netanyahu dismissed Bennett from the government. In November, the prime minister appointed Bennett Minister of Defense.

 

Bennett is the author of the Bennett Plan for solving the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. The plan involves three divisions of the West Bank. Israel would annex Area C, while the Palestinian Authority would retain control over Areas A and B while working in concert with Israel’s security forces to ensure peace. Gaza would be ruled by Egypt. Bennett does not support the creation of a Palestinian state.


Sources: Levinson, Chaim. “Bennett's West Bank plan ignores existence of about 100,000 Palestinians,” Haaretz, (January 17, 2013);
Hovel, Revital. “Deconstructing Naftali Bennett: Growing up to be a leader,” Haaretz, (January 18, 2013);
“Naftali Bennett,” Wikipedia.