November 18, 2019

Naftali Bennett Named Israel’s Defense Minister As His Party Joins with Netanyahu’s Likud

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - MARCH 18: (ISRAEL OUT) Israel's newly sworn-in Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor and head of Israel's Jewish Home party, Naftali Bennett arrives for the first Cabinet meeting after the swearing in of the new Israeli government, at the Prime Minister's Office on March 18, 2013 in Jerusalem, Israel. Israel's 33rd government is to be sworn in today after almost six weeks of negotiations to piece together a coalition government. (Photo by David Vaaknin-Pool/Getty Images)

(JTA) — Naftali Bennett, head of the New Right party, has been appointed Israel’s defense minister while agreeing to have his party join with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud to form a single Knesset faction.

Netanyahu, who heads a caretaker government pending coalition talks following the September general election, appointed Bennett on Friday, the same day of the joint agreement on their parties, Ynet reported.

Netanyahu failed in his bid to form a government following the September election. Though the union with New Right could make Likud the largest party in Israel, it is unlikely to affect any efforts to form a ruling coalition. It would, however, shore up Netanyahu’s position in the event of another election.

Benny Gantz, who heads the centrist Blue and White party, is in talks with various parties but has reported no major breakthroughs and appears gridlocked. He has another 13 days.

If he fails to come up with a coalition by the end of that deadline, there will be another three-week period in which any lawmaker may receive the endorsement of 61 lawmakers to become prime minister. If that does not happen, a new election – the third since April – will be called.