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Former Israeli PM Bennett praises his own ‘goodwill’ government in NYT op-ed

Bennett called Mansour Abbas a "mensch" and said his diverse coalition could serve as a model for co-existence

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett holds a press conference at the Knesset, announcing he will not be running in the next election, June 29, 2022. (Photo: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

In a New York Times op-ed published on Sunday, former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett praised his own “goodwill” government, which was formed in June 2021, as Israel’s most diverse government ever, made up of right-wing, centrist, left-wing and Islamist parties. 

Bennett presented his former coalition government as a model for governance in an increasingly fractured and polarized world. 

“We called ourselves a good-will government. We proved to ourselves and to those outside our coalition that people with radically different political opinions can work incredibly well together. The world is more polarized than ever. The model we presented was one of cooperation and unity. Of transcending your tribe for the good of your nation,” Bennett wrote. 

In his op-ed, the former premier claimed that 70% of Israel’s diverse population agrees on 70% of the issues and challenges the country faces. The glue that kept the Bennett government together was focusing on the issues that most Israelis agreed on, he said. 

“I established the 70/70 rule. About 70 percent of Israelis agree on 70 percent of the issues. We all agree that we need better trains and roads, better education, more security and a lower cost of living. However, we disagree on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, religion and state, and the desired nature of our legal system. So my government focused on getting the 70 percent done, as opposed to endlessly wrangling over the issues we didn’t agree on,” Bennett said. 

Bennett admitted in the op-ed that he originally felt negatively toward working with Mansour Abbas, the leader of the Arab Israeli Islamist party Ra’am. However, Bennett noted that after getting to know him, he saw the Arab Israeli leader as a “mensch,” an individual of integrity and honor. 

In his op-ed, Bennett articulated hope that his former coalition also could serve as a model for improved co-existence between Arabs and Jews in Israel itself.

“I discovered a brave leader just about my age who turned out to be something of a mensch,” Bennett said of Abbas. “We are both men of faith and quickly agreed that whatever theological disagreements may exist between Judaism and Islam, we will let God handle those. We will work together here and now to provide better education, better jobs and safer streets for Israelis and Arabs.”

A former member of Sayeret Matkal, an elite combat unit of the Israeli Defense Forces, Bennett became a successful entrepreneur in the Israeli high-tech industry before entering Israeli politics in 2006 as Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief of staff. However, Bennett and Netanyahu eventually became political rivals. 

In 2018, Bennett formed a right-wing political alliance called Yamina. Then, on June 13, 2021, Bennett surprised voters when he was sworn in as Israel’s prime minister despite his party only having seven seats in the 120-seat Knesset. 

In March 2022, Bennett became the first democratic world leader to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He tried to mediate peace between Ukraine and Russia by utilizing Jerusalem’s then-strong political ties with both countries. 

As his own coalition started collapsing, Bennett resigned as prime minister in June, allowing his political ally Yair Lapid to replace him until the Nov. 1 elections in Israel, where Lapid lost to Netanyahu. In early November, Bennett officially resigned as Israel’s alternate prime minister. 

While Bennett’s plans are unclear, his focus appears to be beyond politics. He is reportedly planning to offer high-profile speaking engagements in the United States, Australia and other places around the world. Bennett is a fluent English-speaker, the son of American immigrants, who moved from San Francisco to Israel. 

Bennett’s op-ed was possibly a step toward strengthening his image internationally, especially in the United States. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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