Yamina’s chief, Naftali Bennett, has his eyes set on becoming Prime Minister. He thinks it is time for Netanyahu, who is 71 years old, to move on. Bennett though, unlike Gideon Sa’ar, who like Bennett, is a former close Netanyahu ally now heading a rival right-wing faction, hasn’t ruled out forming a coalition with Netanyahu.
Moreover, Bennett in his own words is more “right-wing than Bibi”, and if the opinion polls are to be believed then he will be playing the role of the kingmaker making Netanyahu even more right-wing than he is at present. The thought of the two biggest politicians in Israel enjoying staunch support of the right-wing followers will send shivers down the spine of liberals worldwide.
Bennett’s remarkable status as the election’s “kingmaker” should inspire would-be political leaders everywhere, since he seemed to be done less than two years ago, after the first of what has turned out to be four rapid-fire election campaigns.
Bennett and his longtime party colleague Ayelet Shaked, a senior minister in the previous coalition, found themselves not only out of government but also out of the world. Before the elections, they avowedly swore to build “a true partnership between secular and religious Israelis.” It fared unexpectedly badly on polling day and wound up just below the electoral threshold.
Bennett is now back. The resurgent importance of Naftali Bennett, the 2019 phoenix, highlights why next month’s poll, which takes place only four days before Passover, is unlike the three inconclusive elections that came before it. It is being called that the three past elections had been a battle to oust Netanyahu and the right and this time it would be a battle to oust Netanyahu by the right and Bennett will lead it. This cannot be more wrong.
Bennett has said that even though he wishes to defeat Netanyahu fair and square in the elections, he has no intention of boycotting Bibi and has also not ruled out a coalition. Bibi’s right-wing though is far more pronounced and nationalistic than Bibi. Therefore, if a coalition is formed, Netanyahu would become even more right-wing than his former self.
Yamina is now commonly positioned between the pro-and anti-Netanyahu parties in pollsters’ graphic representations, indicating that Bennett holds the balance of power between them. But, as Bennett explained in an extensive interview with The Times of Israel this week, the image is a little misleading.
The Times wrote about him that he described himself as someone who isn’t in the business of boycotting political opponents, but he is a member of “the national camp” — a staunch right-winger who will still reject Palestinian statehood, no matter what; who wants to expand Israeli hegemony to roughly 60% of the West Bank; and who believes Israel has already given up too much biblical ground.
He wants to create “a government based on national values.” He sees the election on March 23 as a showdown between him and Netanyahu. And as has been mentioned before, Bennett is open to a coalition with Netanyahu which means that a right-wing party is destined to be in the seat of power in Israel.