NAFTALI BENNETT (Hebrew : נַפְתָּלִי בֶּנֶט; born
25 March 1972) is an Israeli politician who has led the right-wing
The Jewish Home party since 2012. He has served as Israel's
Minister of Education since 2015 and Minister of Diaspora Affairs
since 2013. Between 2013 and 2015 he held the posts of Minister of
Economy and Minister of Religious Services .
Born and raised in
Haifa , the son of immigrants from the United
States, Bennett served in the
Sayeret Matkal and
Maglan special forces
units of the
Israel Defense Forces , taking part in many combat
operations, and subsequently became a software entrepreneur. In 1999,
he co-founded and co-owned the Cyota company, operating in the
anti-fraud space, focused on online banking fraud, e-commerce fraud,
and phishing. The company was sold in 2005 for $145 million. He has
also served as CEO of
Soluto , a cloud computing service, sold in 2013
for a reported $100–130 million. He entered politics in 2006,
Chief of Staff for
Benjamin Netanyahu until 2008. In 2011,
Ayelet Shaked , he co-founded the My Israel
extra-parliamentary movement. In the 2013
Knesset elections , the
first contested by
The Jewish Home under Bennett's leadership, the
party won 12 seats out of 120.
* 1 Biography
* 1.1 Early life
* 1.2 Military career
* 1.3 Business career
* 1.4 Return to Israel, entry into politics and personal life
* 2 Political career
* 3 Political positions
* 3.2 Economy and society
* 4 See also
* 5 Notes
* 6 References
* 7 External links
Naftali Bennett was born in
Haifa , Israel, on 25 March 1972. He is
the youngest of three sons born to Jim and Myrna Bennett, American
Jewish immigrants who moved to
San Francisco in 1967, a
month after the
Six-Day War . His father's Jewish roots come from
Poland, Germany, and the Netherlands. His maternal grandparents moved
San Francisco from Poland 20 years before the outbreak of World War
II , and relocated to
Israel as seniors, and settled on Vitkin Street
in Haifa. Some of his mother's other family members, who remained in
Poland, died in the Holocaust . Both of Bennett's parents observe
Modern Orthodox Judaism . After moving to Israel, they volunteered for
a few months at kibbutz
Dafna , where they studied the Hebrew language
, then settled in the Ahuza neighborhood of Haifa. Jim Bennett was a
successful real estate broker turned real estate entrepreneur.
Bennett's mother, Myrna, was the deputy director general of the
Association of Americans and Canadians in
Israel 's northern program.
One of Naftali Bennett's two brothers, Asher, is a businessman who is
now based in the United Kingdom. His other brother, Daniel, is an
Zim Integrated Shipping Services .
Naftali Bennett attended Yavne
Yeshiva High School in Haifa, and
became a youth leader ("Madrich") with the religious Zionist youth
Bnei Akiva .
During his national service in the
Israel Defense Forces , he served
Sayeret Matkal and
Maglan units as a company commander; he
continues to serve in the reserves today with the rank of major.
Bennett served in the Israeli security zone in Lebanon during the
1982–2000 South Lebanon conflict . He took part in many operations,
Operation Grapes of Wrath
Operation Grapes of Wrath . After his IDF service, Bennett
received a law degree from the
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Hebrew University of Jerusalem .
2006 Lebanon War , he was called up as a reservist and
participated in a search and destroy mission behind enemy lines,
Hezbollah rocket launchers.
Some of Bennett's actions while serving as a special forces commando
are controversial. Journalist Yigal Sarna argued that Bennett
displayed “poor judgment", while serving in the
unit, during Operation Grapes of Wrath. Sarna argued that “Bennett
led a force of 67 combat troops into Lebanon. At a certain point, he
decided to ignore orders and change operational plans without
coordinating these moves with his superiors, who in his mind were
cowardly and not steadfast enough. Near the village of Kfar Kana,
Bennett’s troops were caught in an ambush… 102 civilians were
killed and 10 wounded, of them four United Nations peacekeepers”.
Bennett responded, writing: "“I have now been subjected to an attack
claiming that I am ‘responsible for the massacre in Kfar Kana’,”
Bennett wrote. “Heroism will not be investigated. Keep looking in
the archives. My military file is available for viewing, and it’s
waiting for you." Former members of Bennett's unit wrote a letter
defending him, saying: "Naftali... led many successful operations that
led to the elimination of
Hezbollah terrorists deep in enemy
Bennett moved to the
Upper East Side of
Manhattan to build a career
as a software entrepreneur. In 1999, he co-founded Cyota, an
anti-fraud software company, and served as its CEO. The company was
sold in 2005 to
RSA Security for $145 million, making Bennett a
multi-millionaire in the process. Despite being sold, a stipulation
of the deal allowed the Israeli arm of Cyota to remain intact. As a
result, 400 Israelis are employed at the company’s Israeli offices
Herzliya . Bennett has also served as the CEO of
Soluto , a technology company providing cloud-based service that
enables remote support for personal computers and mobile devices in
2009, at a time when he and partner Lior Golan were engaged in raising
funds for a myriad of Israeli technology startup companies.
hitherto raised $20 million from investors, including venture capital
funds Giza Venture Capital, Proxima Ventures, Bessemer Venture
Index Ventures ,
Michael Arrington 's CrunchFund, Eric
Schmidt 's Innovation Endeavors and Initial Capital. The sale of
Soluto for a reported $100–130 million to an American company
Asurion , was finalized in October 2013.
RETURN TO ISRAEL, ENTRY INTO POLITICS AND PERSONAL LIFE
Since moving on from software entrepreneurship, Bennett returned to
Israel and since then moved on towards a career in politics. His wife,
Gilat, was secular, but now observes the Jewish Sabbath and religious
Jewish kosher laws regarding food. She is a professional pastry chef.
The couple have four children and live in Ra\'anana , a city about 20
kilometres (12 mi) north of Tel Aviv and 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) from
the Mediterranean. Like his brothers, Bennett observes Modern
After he took part in the
2006 Lebanon War , Bennett joined the
Leader of the Opposition
Benjamin Netanyahu and served as his Chief of
Staff from 2006 to 2008. Among attending to other issues, he led a
team which developed Netanyahu's educational reform plan. He also ran
Netanyahu's primary campaign to lead the
Likud party in August 2007.
On 31 January 2010, Bennett was appointed as the director-general of
Yesha Council and led the struggle against the settlement freeze
in 2010. He served in this position until January 2012.
In April 2011, together with
Ayelet Shaked , he co-founded My Israel
, which claims to have 94,000 Israeli members. In April 2012, he
founded a movement named "Yisraelim"—i.e., Israelis. The movement's
main goals include increasing
Zionism among centre-right supporters;
increasing dialogue between the religious and nonreligious
communities, and finally – promoting "The
Initiative." Subsequently, Bennett resigned from the
The Jewish Home , while announcing his candidacy for the party
leadership. In the internal elections, on 6 November 2012, he won 67%
of the votes, and was elected as head of The Jewish Home. In the 2013
legislative elections Bennett led the party to an achievement of 12
seats in the 19th
Following his election to the
Knesset , Bennett had to renounce his
U.S. citizenship , which he held as the son of American parents,
before he could take up his seat. He was appointed Minister of the
Economy and Minister of Religious Services in March 2013. In April
2013, he was also appointed Minister of Jerusalem and Diaspora
Affairs. As a senior Cabinet Member , he plays a major role in
financial, political and security affairs.
After being re-elected in the 2015 elections , Bennett was appointed
Minister of Education and retained the Diaspora Affairs portfolio in
the new government . In 2015, Prime Minister Netanyahu split the
Ministry of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs, initially taking back the
Jerusalem Affairs portfolio for himself. He later appointed Ze'ev
Elkin to the role of Jerusalem Affairs Minister.
In his function as Minister of Education , Bennett issued an official
order that prohibits school principals from inviting members of
Shovrim Shtika and other organizations that denounce Israel's military
conduct in the
West Bank . Under Bennett's supervision, the Ministry
of Education changed the school curricula in order to include an
increased number of visits to heritage sites in the West Bank.
In October 2015, Bennett resigned from the
Knesset in order to allow
Shuli Mualem to 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 on 6 December 2015 after
Avi Wortzman opted
to vacate his seat, having temporarily had to resign as a minister in
order to do so.
Bennett at the pre-election foreign-policy debate at the Hebrew
University of Jerusalem , 8 January 2013
On February 2012, Bennett published a plan for managing the
Israeli–Palestinian conflict , called "The
Initiative." The plan is based in part on parts of earlier
initiatives: "Peace on Earth" by Adi Mintz and the "
Elon Peace Plan "
Binyamin Elon , and relies on the statements of the Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu and
Likud party ministers that spoke in favor of
unilateral annexation of the
West Bank . Bennett opposes the creation
of a Palestinian state : "I will do everything in my power to make
sure they never get a state."
He suggests a tripartition of the
Palestinian territories . Thus,
Israel should unilaterally annex Area C , authority over the Gaza
Strip should be transferred to
Egypt , while Area A and Area B would
remain with the
Palestinian National Authority , but under the
security umbrella of the
Israel Defense Forces and
Shin Bet to "ensure
quiet, suppress Palestinian terrorism and prevent
Hamas from taking
over the territory." Area C constitutes 62% of the area and
approximately 365,000 people live in Israeli settlements . The
Palestinians that live in this area would be offered Israeli
citizenship or a permanent residency status (between 48,000, according
to Bennett, or as many as 150,000, according to other surveys).
Israel would invest in creating roads so Palestinians can
travel between Areas A and B without checkpoints, and invest in
infrastructure and joint industrial zones, because "Peace grows from
below—through people, and people in daily life." Bennett also
resists immigration of Palestinian refugees now living outside of the
West Bank, or the connection between the
Hamas -controlled Gaza Strip
and the West Bank. In 2011, Bennett noted that there were about 50
factories in the
West Bank industrial region where Israelis and
Palestinians work together, and cited this as one workable approach to
finding peace between the two sides.
Bennett suggests that
Israel must learn to live with the Palestinian
problem without a "surgical action" of separation to two states: "I
have a friend who's got shrapnel in his rear end, and he's been told
that it can be removed surgically but it would leave him disabled...
So he decided to live with it. There are situations where insisting on
perfection can lead to more trouble than it's worth." Bennett's
"Shrapnel in the butt" thus quickly became widely known as
representing his view of the Palestinian problem.
In response to Israel\'s release of Palestinian prisoners in 2013,
Bennett said Palestinian terrorists should be shot and is quoted to
have said "I already killed lots of Arabs in my life, and there is
absolutely no problem with that." Bennett was widely condemned for
these words, though he denied these allegations and claimed he said
that "terrorists should be killed if they pose an immediate life
threat to our soldiers when in action."
In January 2013, he said, "There is not going to be a Palestinian
state within the tiny land of Israel," he said, referring to the area
Jordan River to the
Mediterranean Sea . "It's just not going
to happen. A Palestinian state would be a disaster for the next 200
In December 2014, a group of academics who are against the Boycott,
Divestment and Sanctions movement and members of
The Third Narrative ,
Labor Zionist organization, called on the U.S. and E.U. to impose
sanctions on Bennett and three other Israelis "who lead efforts to
insure permanent Israeli occupation of the
West Bank and to annex all
or parts of it unilaterally in violation of international law." These
academics, calling themselves Scholars for
Israel and Palestine (SIP),
and claiming to be "pro-Israel, pro-Palestine, pro-peace", asked the
U.S. and EU to freeze Bennett's foreign assets and impose visa
restrictions. Bennett was chosen in particular as a target for
proposed sanctions because of his work in opposing the 2010 settlement
freeze while he was director of the Yesha settlements council,
actively supporting annexation of over 60% of the
West Bank and
"pressing strongly for a policy of creeping annexation."
In November 2016, following the election of
Donald Trump as the
President of the United States , Bennett maintained he saw this as
hope that the two-state solution would no longer be considered viable,
claiming "The era of the Palestinian state is over."
In October 2016, Bennett said that "On the matter of the Land of
Israel, we have to move from holding action to a decision," He said.
"We have to mark the dream, and the dream is that Judea and Samaria
will be part of the sovereign State of Israel. We have to act today,
and we must give our lives. We can't keep marking the Land of Israel
as a tactical target and a Palestinian state as the strategic target."
ECONOMY AND SOCIETY
Bennett with President of
Reuven Rivlin , Michal Ansky
Ofra Strauss at the Jasmine businesswomen's convention for
promotion of small and medium-sized enterprises , Israel, 15 December
Bennett believes in a free economy and that private businesses are
the engine for economic growth. He is in favor of social support of
vulnerable populations such as the elderly and disabled. Bennett says
Israel needs to break the monopoly of the tycoons, the major labor
unions and the Ministry of Defense , that are, in his opinion,
strangling the economy of
Israel . In addition, he believes that the
key to reducing disparities is equality of opportunity and investment
in education in the periphery, to give tools to populations of weaker
economic backgrounds. By doing so, Bennett believes weaker populations
Israel will be given the opportunity to succeed professionally and
financially. He supports the provision of land to veterans in the
periphery, in the
Galilee , to promote a national solution
to the problem of "affordable housing" and a more equitable
distribution of the population in
Israel . He has also pledged to
remove heavy bureaucratic challenges to small and medium-sized Israeli
businesses. As an adherent of
Orthodox Judaism , Bennett is opposed
to the implementation of same-sex marriage in
Israel "just as we don't
recognize milk and meat together as kosher", but has expressed
support for equivalent rights such as tax breaks for same-sex couples.
As Economy Minister, Bennett oversaw a new strategy by
increase trade with emerging markets around the world and reduce trade
European Union , so as to diversify its foreign trade. The
two main reasons for this shift are to take advantage of opportunities
in emerging markets, and to avert the threat of possible EU sanctions
Israel over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Bennett himself
acknowledged that he was seeking to reduce Israel's economic
dependence on the EU to reduce its influence on Israel. According to
Financial Times , Bennett is the primary architect of this
economic pivot. Under Bennett's leadership, the Economy Ministry began
opening new trade attaché offices in
Africa , and South
America , and also began closing some trade offices in Europe and
consolidating others with offices in neighboring countries. As part of
this process, Bennett opened negotiations with
free trade agreements, oversaw continuing negotiations with
a free trade agreement, and personally led economic delegations to
China and India. While attending the World Trade Organization
Ministerial Conference of 2013 in
Indonesia , Bennett held
talks with delegations from some unspecified countries over the
possibility of future free trade agreements.
Bennett also implemented reforms to lower Israel's high food prices.
Under his oversight, import duties and barriers were reduced, and
mechanisms were set up to ensure more competition in the Israeli food
industry. These reforms have been credited with a decline in Israeli
food prices that began in April 2014 and continued throughout the rest
of the year and into 2015. According to a
Haaretz editorial, however,
a fall in global commodity prices and dire financial straits among
many Israeli consumers prompted the decline, and not the reforms.
Bennett has led a push to integrate Haredi men and Israeli-Arab
women, most of whom are unemployed, into the workforce. According to
Bennett, their integration into the workforce will greatly bolster
economic growth. Under his "voucher plan," the Ministry of the Economy
issues vouchers for hundreds of vocational schools that will allow
Haredi men to avoid mandatory military service , or at least
temporarily, in exchange for enrolling in a vocational school to learn
a job. Bennett has also greatly bolstered aid and government programs
for Arab women to encourage more of them to enter the workforce, with
the goal of doubling their employment rate from 25 to 50 percent in
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