Naftali Bennett Is Face of Israel's New Right Wing

High-Tech Mogul Turned Around Religious Zionist Party

The Right Look: Naftali Bennett looks more like a high-tech millionaire than a hard-right Israeli politician. And that’s the point.
getty images
The Right Look: Naftali Bennett looks more like a high-tech millionaire than a hard-right Israeli politician. And that’s the point.

By Nathan Jeffay

Published January 14, 2013, issue of January 18, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 3)

The NRP has long been right wing on settlements, but not on social and economic policy. Zevulun Orlev, the party’s most prominent politician in recent decades whom Bennett defeated in the primary and caused to retire, was decidedly left leaning in this area. Bennett, by contrast, is a neoconservative high-tech millionaire whose political platform includes significantly weakening trade unions.

In 1999, Bennett co-founded Cyota, a company that develops anti-fraud software, and became its CEO. He sold the company in 2005 to RSA Security, based in the United States, for $145 million. With no need to make any more money, he moved into the political realm. He became chief of staff to Benjamin Netanyahu, who at that time was the opposition leader.

Bennett’s combination of religious ideology and entrepreneurship is “capturing the imagination of the people,” said the veteran commentator on the religious Zionist community, Bambi Sheleg. Religious Zionists have become less interested in social welfare over time, and Bennett offers an expression and role model for this identity. He presents a path for the Orthodox sector to pursue individualism, while retaining ideals regarding religion and settlements.

“It’s Torah im capitalism,” Sheleg said, twisting the expression “Torah im derech eretz,” the Modern Orthodox ideal of combining Torah observance and study with conduct in the workaday world.

Amir Paz-Fuchs of Ono Academic College, one of Israel’s leading scholars on social and welfare platforms, commented, “In the past you could always count on [the party] to oppose threats of privatization, on threats to the welfare state and the problem of inequality, but now it’s just like religious Likud.” He was alluding to Likud’s strongly free market bent.

In a sense, the Bennett era is phase three for Religious Zionist politics. During the first phase, the party was essentially a continuation of the pre-state Religious Zionist movement, headed by leaders from the days before independence, and focused on the religious character of the Jewish state.

After the Six Day War of 1967, a new generation took over. It shifted the party to the right, and its main battle became building and maintaining settlements. “Since the revolution of the late 1960s, Bennett is the biggest revolution in the party,” said Tamir Sheafer, a political scientist at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.