Analysis: After deciding to step out of Netanyahu’s shadow, Bennett shows political daring, forms alliances that surprise his voters; as he announces he will not run in elections – his political career may not be over at all

For better or worse, for the past four years, Naftali Bennett who on Wednesday said he would not be running in the next elections, made daring, often hasty political choices.

As the person who stepped into the role of leader of the religious Zionist Jewish Home party in 2013, Bennet became a politician who breaks barriers and goes for the prize.

נפתלי בנט בנאום הפרישה
Naftali Bennett announcing resignation on Wednesday (Photo: Amit Shabi )


A turning point in his carrier came in December of 2018, with the formation of a new political party The New Right, more suitable to his ever-morphing DNA and courting religious and secular right-wing voters.

He had accumulated many achievements up to that moment both in the private tech sector and in public service and was not one to be ignored.

However, he was still in the shadow of his former boss, Benjamin Netanyahu and bowed to the latter’s, imposed limitations on him.

Before entering the political races, Bennett served as an aid to Netanyahu – a relationship that did not end well, and was later a minister in successive Netanyahu governments.

In 2019, Bennett began to adopt a different approach. He believed that by being tied to Netanyahu, his party was restricted and saw the populous politics of the ruling Likud, something to be avoided.

He wanted to bring to the forefront, a new right-wing political faction, which would embrace state symbols and institutions, rather than attack them as Netanyahu and his followers had done.

בנימין נתניהו ונפתלי בנט במליאת הכנסת
Naftali Bennett and Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky )


Through hard work, Bennett convinced his political partner of old, Ayelet Shaked, also a veteran of Netanyahu’s inner circle, and a subject of his abuse, to join him in his new venture.

The new party failed to cross the Knesset threshold and the political couple seemed to be heading off into a non-political sunset but as opportunity presented itself once more, and Netanyahu failed again to form a government, Bennett and Shaked gathered into their party small right-wing factions and returned to the Knesset.

אילת שקד בביקור בנקודת התצפית על רהט לקראת
Ayelet Shaked (Photo: Noam Rivkin)


At that juncture, Netanyahu enticed Blue & White leader Benny Gantz to join his “emergency government,” and together combat the coronavirus pandemic.

That allowed the ambitious politician to free himself from the far-right and position himself as a free agent at the head of yet another party – Yamina – in time for yet another election cycle brought on by Netanyahu’s reversal of his commitments to Gantz.

Bennett himself was not fully aware of where his new found freedom would take him and surprised his voters as well as his opponents when he agreed to head a coalition of parties from the left and the right and include for the first time in Israel’s history – an Arab political party as an equal member of the coalition.

מנסור עבאס, נפתלי בנט ויאיר לפיד, בערב חתימת ההסכם הקואליציוני
Yair Lapid, Naftali Bennett, Mansour Abbas sign coalition agreement in 2021 (Photo: Ra’am Party )


But the right-wing under Netanyahu’s leadership did not allow him a moment of quiet and came after him and his party members in full force.

Demonstrators stood outside his home and the homes of Yamina members calling them traitors and accusing them of stealing the votes of right-wing Israelis.

הפגנת מתנגדי חיסונים מול בית בנט ברעננה
Right-wing demonstrators outside the home of Naftali Bennett last year


Under the strains of his leadership role, Bennett failed to understand the magnitude of the attacks and their effect on religious legislators who were shunned in their synagogues and had their families abused.

Yamina began to break apart, first with the defection of coalition whip Idit Silman and later with the announcement of Nir Orbach, previously a Bennett ally – who announced he too would no longer support the coalition.

As he announced he would not run in the next election, Bennett said his calling is to serve Israel and he remains a loyal soldier to the cause.

Israelis will likely see him in the political arena again before too long.

As reported by Ynetnews