Israel’s Netanyahu Appoints Rival Bennett as Temporary Defense Minister; New Right to Ally With Likud
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has appointed a bitter rival to his right, Naftali Bennett, as defense minister of his caretaker government, a Likud party spokesman said on Friday.
Bennett, the leader of the New Right party, will take the defense portfolio from Netanyahu, who has simultaneously served as prime minister and defense minister for nearly a year.
“The appointment will be brought to the government for approval at an upcoming government meeting,” the Likud spokesman said in a statement.
Israeli politics are deadlocked after two inconclusive elections this year. Former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White party emerged neck and neck with Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud following a September vote, and both leaders have struggled to put together a ruling coalition.
Gantz, who was asked by Israel‘s president to forge a coalition after Netanyahu failed to do so, has less than two weeks left to form a government.
If he fails, the country could be headed toward an unprecedented third election although a smaller party might be given a chance before that.
Netanyahu has led a caretaker government throughout the political turmoil.
Bennett previously served in Netanyahu’s cabinet as education minister.
Netanyahu took over the defense portfolio following the resignation last November of Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman, whose move helped plunge the country toward snap elections in April.
Netanyahu and Bennett also agreed to form a parliamentary alliance, the Likud spokesman said, adding that Bennett agreed another person would be appointed defense chief if a unity government or narrow right-wing coalition was formed.
New Right No. 2 Ayelet Shaked tweeted on Friday of the development, “I am convinced this is correct for the good of the State of Israel.”