Knowing Naftali Bennett, the New First Among Equals Premier of Israel

India – Israel will be celebrating three decades of upgradation of diplomatic ties next year. Under the new Israeli Premier Bennett, expectations will be high to further strengthen the strategic partnership between the two countries

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By Col Alok Mathur, SM (Retd)

Naftali Bennett, the new PM of Israel

On June 13, 2021, Knesset, the parliament of Israel, approved a new eight party coalition government and Naftali Bennett of Yamina party, holding only 07 seats was elected and sworn in as the new Prime Minister (PM) of Israel. After winning the confidence vote with the narrowest margin (60 votes to 59 votes), Naftali Bennett’s coalition government forced the end of 12 years long reign of celebrated and the nation’s longest serving leader Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud party).

While addressing a press conference, the new PM conveyed that after four elections in two years, we have broken the long political deadlock with the most diverse coalition ever seen. He welcomed Ra’am party of Mansour Abbas, an Arab Israeli party, which has joined the coalition and highlighted that he was against the polarisation with in the country but security of Zion Land remains the prime concern.

Bennett said in Parliament that his govt will not permit Iran to go ahead with Nuclear weapons programme and also will oppose any nuclear deal of Iran even for power generation with any country including United States. Israel will maintain full freedom of action against any belligerent nation or a terrorist group. He concluded his address with thanking President Joe Biden and US for its support to state of Israel.

Benjamin Netanyahu, who was Prime minister for last 12 years, while addressing to Parliament expressed confidence that this coalition will collapse soon and Likud alliance will be back to power. He warned that the new govt will give in to US pressure and will provide extra ordinary concessions to Palestinians and also will overlook Iran’s covert Nuclear weapon programme.

Bennett said in Parliament that his govt will not permit Iran to go ahead with Nuclear weapons programme and also will oppose any nuclear deal of Iran even for power generation with any country including United States. Israel will maintain full freedom of action against any belligerent nation or a terrorist group

Israel is a republic, which came in to existence on May 14, 1948, with president as head of state; however he has only ceremonial powers. The prime minister holds the executive powers. The elections are held for Knesset every 4 years. The various parties nominate the candidates; the winner gets in the Knesset. The party winning the maximum seats is invited by the president to select the PM candidate, who is sworn in as the PM and he must win the vote of confidence within 28 days to continue in office. In case of hung verdict, the coalition govt are formed. The direct election system was resorted to from 1996 to 2001 but later, Knesset system was reinstalled.

David Ben Gurion, a legend war veteran, of Mapai party was the first PM of state of Israel. He served from May 14, 1948 till January 26, 1954. Moshe Sharret was the second PM again from Mapai party, served till November 03, 1955. Ben Gurion was again re-elected and served till June 26, 1963. He was succeeded by Levi Eshkol (Mapai) who was in office till 1969. Yigon Allon (Labour) was in office till December 15, 1969 followed by Golda Meir (Labour) till June 1974. Next was Yitzhak Rabin (Labour) till June 1977, Menachem Begin (Likud) was PM till 1983, Yitzhak Shamir (Likud) till September 1984, Shimon Peres (Labour) till 1992. Rabin again came back and remained till November 1995. Shimon Peres was back again till June 1996. Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud was elected for first time on June 18, 1999 and was in office till March 2001. He was followed by Ehud Barack (1999 -2003), Ariel Sharon till 2006, Ehud Olmert of Kadima party till March 2009. Benjamin bounced back and had four tenures till June 13, 2021 and now we have Naftali Bennett as the 36th PM of Israel. Most of the PMs have more than one tenure, so actually he is the 13th individual as PM.

Benjamin Netanyahu, The outgoing PM of Israel

Knesset, the parliament, has 120 seats including speaker and is located in West Jerusalem. The share of major parties after 2021 elections is as under:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Naftali Bennet on being sworn in as new PM of Israel and said that he looked forward to meet him and deepening their strategic parternership as they celebrate 30 years of upgradation of diplomatic ties next year

Legislative elections were held in Israel on 23 March 2021 for the 24th Knesset under notification from President Reuven Rivin to elect 120 members from various political parties. After the results he invited Benjamin to form govt being the largest party till May 04, but he failed to form the govt. The president called the second largest party head Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid party. He met Bennett for support along with 6 more parties. They agreed to share chair of PM but Ra’am party did not disclose its cards and did not support any party due to Gaza crisis. On June 02, 2021 , finally Ra’am Chief Mansour proved to be the king maker and gave the  letter of support to  Yeir Lapid, but Yamina party delayed support till 11 June and when it was promised by Lapid that Bennett to be sworn in as first PM in rotation of 2 years each. Thus, after hectic negotiations, Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party coalition was sworn in as 36th govt of Israel on June 13, 2021. Naftali Bennett in a shrewd move became the PM and Lapid as alternative PM intended to take over in 2023. Benny Gantz, a former Israeli Army Chief, presently head of Blue and White party will be the Defence Minister in new government.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Naftali Bennet on being sworn in as new PM of Israel and said that he looked forward to meet him and deepening their strategic parternership as they celebrate 30 years of upgradation of diplomatic ties next year.  PM of India in a balanced approach also conveyed his profound gratitude to Benjamin Netanyahu for his strong leadership for 12 long years and promotion of India Israel strategic partnership and true friendship.

It is in strategic interest of India to maintain cordial relations with Israel. Israel is in the forefront to provide us latest Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Hermes 900, Radars, Beyond Visual Range Air to Air Missiles, Precision Guided Ammunitions like Spice, Night Vision Devices, Cyber Warfare equipment, Missile Defence Shield technology, Anti-tank Missiles. And most importantly, it is sharing strategic intelligence of nuclear capabilities of our northern and western neighbours and real time top secret information on terrorist organisation.  We still follow the policy of non-alignment keeping in view our geopolitical and economic interests, requirement of Oil from Arabian Gulf countries, but Israel is a true friend and will help us directly or indirectly in adverse situation.

-The writer is an Indian Army veteran and a defence analyst. He has keen interest in Geo-strategic affairs and writes regularly on internal and external affairs issues related to India and neighbours. The views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda

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