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Naftali Bennett could be Israel’s next prime minister

Pro-settler Yamina leader Naftali Bennett could soon become Israel’s first religious prime minister.
Leader of the Israeli right-wing Yamina party Naftali Bennett addresses supporters at his party's campaign headquarters, after the end of voting in the fourth national election in two years, Tel Aviv, Israel, March 24, 2021.

Imagine Ross Perot, who ran as an independent in the 1992 US presidential elections and pulled in fewer than 19% of the vote, winning Electoral College support and moving into the White House instead of the winner, Bill Clinton, or Republican challenger George Bush. That is precisely how things stand in Israel, with one significant difference: Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party garnered 6% of the vote in the March 2021 elections, not 19%, but his prospects of becoming Israel’s next prime minister are looking pretty good.

Israel’s electoral system is vastly different than the American one. The prime minister is not elected directly. The job goes to the candidate who puts together a coalition of parties that enjoys a majority in the 120-member Knesset. By dint of the anomalous circumstances and political chaos of the past two years, Bennett stands the best chance of forming such a coalition and leading Israel’s 36th government. Under the emerging deal, he would serve for two years and then switch jobs with Yesh Atid Chair Yair Lapid for the second half of the government’s term.

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