Naftali Bennett as PM: An important future for Israel’s tech sector? – opinion

It was a moment of political history.

After 12 years of Benjamin Netanyahu, Naftali Bennett unseated Israel’s longest-serving leader. Regardless of a failed attempt to cross the electoral threshold in 2019, Bennett emerged victorious and took the oath of office in the Knesset as the 13th prime minister of Israel.
In a heated session, Bennett was voted in with a razor-thin 60-59 majority in the 120-member house – a coalition of left-wing, centrist, right-wing and Arab parties, united by a desire to unseat Netanyahu. Bennett’s new government seems to break a long chain of political dead ends and sets the scene for the most diverse confederation Israel has ever seen, which includes the first Arab party to serve in the government.
As the leader of Yamina, which only has seven seats in the Knesset, Bennett has broken boundaries by becoming the first prime minister in Israel’s history with such a small percentage of votes. Compare this to Netanyahu’s Likud Party, which won in March with 30 seats, but could not form a governing coalition.
After four elections in two years, Bennett, head of the right-wing Yamina Party, has joined with the head of the centrist Yesh Atid Party: Yair Lapid. And as part of a power-sharing deal, Bennett is slated to be prime minister until September 2023, after which he will hand over power to Yair Lapid, who will rule for another two years and complete the four-year term. Meanwhile, Netanyahu will become the leader of the opposition and head of the right-wing Likud.

Bennett worked as Netanyahu’s senior aide from 2006 to 2008. However, their relationship soon turned sour. Bennett left Netanyahu’s Likud Party and became a part of the right-wing National-Religious Bayit Yehudi Party. In 2013, Bennett became a member of the Knesset and went on to serve as a minister in every coalition government until 2019.
Netanyahu ruled for a total of 15 years; first from 1996 to 1999, then continuously from 2009 to 2021. Though he called an election in April 2019, he was unable to win enough support to form another coalition government. Regardless, he went for two more elections, but they were inconclusive. After the third election, Netanyahu formed a government of national unity with Benny Gantz, but the alliance went awry and Israel returned to the polls in March.

Netanyahu, 71, is the most dominant Israeli politician of his time. However, he has been weakened by the constant failure to win in the polls since 2019, and by an ongoing corruption trial for fraud, bribery and breach of trust, charges that he has vehemently denied. After Bennett was sworn in, a feisty Netanyahu vowed to be back sooner than expected.

BORN IN Tel Aviv, Netanyahu spent his childhood moving between Israel and the US. His father was a solid academic voice for an independent Jewish state, while his mother was a US citizen born in modern-day Tel Aviv. His mother insisted that her sons learn to speak with an American accent.
Netanyahu has been condemned for undermining Israeli democracy. For instance, the Anti-Defamation League has called his approval of Meir Kahane’s Kach Party “troubling.” Aside from that, Netanyahu’s acceptance of Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orbán, who berates immigrants and has criticized the governing model of the EU, has also drawn fire. Netanyahu follows a similar playbook as Orbán by suppressing opposing views and attempting to take control of public broadcasters.
Bennett, 49, is Modern Orthodox and regularly wears a kippah. A hi-tech millionaire, Bennett started his tech journey in 1999 while still in school. That same year, he and three friends planned to capitalize on the Internet gold rush and decided to launch a start-up, Cyota, an anti-fraud software company. Cyota initially began as a provider of payment solutions to banks, but later tended toward cybersecurity and anti-fraud solutions for financial institutions. Bennett later moved from Israel to New York to run the company, but struggled for the first three years until Cyota decided to change product lines.
In 2000, he moved to Manhattan to build his career as a software entrepreneur. And in 2005, Cyota was sold to a US-based company for $145 million, which made Bennett a multimillionaire. As part of the deal, the Israeli arm of Cyota was allowed to remain intact, and as a result, more than 400 employees are employed at the company’s Israeli office.
In 2009, Bennett served as the CEO of Soluto, a technology company that provides cloud-based services that enable support for personal computers and mobile devices. Soluto went on to raise $20 million from investors, and in 2013, Soluto was sold for more than $100 million to Asurion, an American company.
Before entering politics, Bennett invested a lot of money in the American fintech company Payoneer, which is likely to make him a lot of money now that the company has been listed on the Nasdaq.
With Bennett’s background in tech, there’s no doubt that Israel will make great advances in the tech sector. Bennett’s new government is likely to make major investments in start-ups and even some acquisitions of existing promising start-ups.
Bennett is making moves already. In a news conference on the economy on July 6, he declared his desire to slash regulations, cut the cost of living and help Israel’s small and medium-sized businesses flourish.
He said, “We want to ‘hi-tech-icise’ the rest of the economy… we’re going to turn ourselves into a paradise for small and medium businesses to make it easy and compelling to open a business and succeed.”

No doubt, Israel is headed toward a better future in the tech sector with the recent change in government. It seems to be happening already.

The author is a journalist, software engineer and editor-in-chief at Israel Now News.

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