Tel Aviv/ New Delhi | Jagran World Desk: Naftali Bennett became the thirteenth Prime Minister of Israel on the evening of 13 June 2021. Bennett, the representative of Yamina (an alliance of Israeli right-wing parties) defeated Benjamin Netanyahu with a laser-thin margin of 60-59 inside 120-seat Knesset, the Israeli parliament. One member of Knesset had resigned during power-sharing negotiations bringing the current strength to 119 seats. Netanyahu served as Israeli Prime Minister for over 12 years, becoming the longest-serving Prime Minister of the Jewish-majority nation.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter on Monday to congratulate Naftali Bennett on becoming the Prime Minister of Israel.

“Excellency @naftalibennett, congratulations on becoming the Prime Minister of Israel. As we celebrate 30 years of the upgradation of diplomatic relations next year, I look forward to meeting you and deepening the strategic partnership between our two countries,” PM Modi wrote on Twitter, while also subsequently thanking the outgoing PM Netanyahu for his “personal attention to Indo-Israel strategic partnership”.

Who is Naftali Bennett?

Naftali Bennett, in modern Israel’s 73-year long history, is the first Prime Minister to sport a kippa, a small skullcap wore by religious Jews. A former ally of Benjamin Netanyahu, Bennett made millions in hi-tech sector before formally stepping into politics. His Yamina alliance won just seven seats in the 120-seat Knesset (Israeli Parliament) in the March elections. However, he forged an unusual alliance by refusing to commit to Netanyahu, finally ending up as Prime Minister after months of negotiations.

According to reports in the Israeli media, Bennett is considered ‘an ultranationalist’, that is even more right of the outgoing Netanyahu. Bennett, under the agreements made by the currently ruling alliance of right, left and centre political parties, is set to remain Israel’s Prime Minister for the next two years. By June 2023, centrist leader Yair Lapid has been agreed upon to take over from Bennett.

Naftali Bennett and India – a natural alliance?

In former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet, Naftali Bennett served as Finance Minister (2013-2015), Diaspora Affairs Minister (2013-2019) that is the equivalent of External Affairs Minister in India and Minister of Defence (2019-2020).

The year 2017 is considered a “unique juncture” in terms of the bilateral relations between India and Israel when the ties of two countries rose to the level of “strategic partnership”. In July 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi became the first Indian PM to embark on a state visit to Israel, followed by a similar reciprocation by former PM Netanyahu in January 2018. Naftali Bennett, being the Diaspora Affairs Minister was closely involved in the diplomatic exercises that led to the renewal of Indo-Israel ties along with former Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

At present, a tenth of India’s arms imports come out of Israel, according to a report by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) closing the mark of USD 767 millions. In the last 10 years, India has imported a diverse range of missiles from Israel, including beyond visual range air-to-air Missile (BVRAAM), guided bombs and surface-to-air (SAM) missiles. These missiles are multi-purpose and can be launched from all land, water and air-based platforms.

Reports suggest that India, in order to decrease its dependence on the US and Russia when it comes to defence imports, will continue to move its defence ties closely to countries such as Israel and France while also attempting to procure defence-related equipment indigenously.

Bennett’s former placements in Israeli cabinets as Defence Minister and Diaspora Minister push the strategic objectives on as optimistic side if not more as they were during PM Netanyahu’s tenure.

Posted By: Mukul Sharma