Israeli Elections: two new faces possible keys to future gov

Netanyahu probable winner, but will need coalition partners

22 January, 18:31

Uktra-right-winger Nfatali Bennett Uktra-right-winger Nfatali Bennett

(ANSAmed) - TEL AVIV - Ultra-right-winger and high-tech magnate Naftali Bennett and centrist journalist Yair Lapid are shaping up to be the key newcomers as Israelis took to the polls on Tuesday to elect the 19th Knesset, or parliament.

With the Likud-Beitenu coalition led by incumbent Premier Benjamin Netanyahu and former foreign affairs minister Avigdor Lieberman looking set to gain a relative majority, both Bennett and Lapid, neither of whom have any experience as MPs, have a good chance of being a part of the future government.

Born in Haifa in 1972 of American immigrant parents, Bennett is a big fan of special forces commander Yoni Netanyahu (brother of the current premier), who died in a daring anti-terrorist operation in Uganda in 1976. Following in his hero's footsteps, Bennett served in the Israeli Defense Forces' most daredevil units, such as Sayeret Matcal and Maglan, tussling with Hezbollah in shadowy operations in Lebanon.

In 1999, with three friends and a fistful of shekels, the ex commando officer entered the world of high-tech, building up an internet banking security company that sold just a few years later for USD 145 million. Crossing paths with his hero's brother, it was what Israeli media called ''love at first sight'' between the former officer and the premier, who hired Bennett to head up his office.

They parted ways a year later for reasons that remain unclear, but Bennett had gotten a taste of political power: he moved to the West Bank Jewish settlements council, then took over as chief of the right-wing nationalist religious party, which he renamed Jewish Hearth. Thanks to Bennett, Jewish Heart, whose main platform is supporting the settlements, has found a common language with the secular as well as the religious right-wing.

Born in 1963, Lapid comes from a prominent intellectual Tel Aviv family. His father, Youssef Tommy Lapid, was a star journalist at highly influential Maariv newspaper, the leader of the centrist Shinui party, and a justice minister. His mother, Shulamit Lapid, is a successful writer. Yair became a boxer, published books, recorded songs, wrote thousands of articles, then became a star anchor at Channel 2, Israel's top-rated broadcaster. A year ago Lapid Jr. left his journalism career and entered politics to, like his father, fight for a secular, Zionist and progressive Israel, one in which rights and responsibilities are distributed more equally. The moment of truth has arrived, for both him and Bennett. (ANSAmed).

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