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Israel’s PM Netanyahu appoints head of New Right party Bennett as defense minister

Israel’s PM Netanyahu appoints head of New Right party Bennett as defense minister

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has appointed the head of a right-wing political party as defense minister of his caretaker government, a spokesman for the premier’s Likud party said on Friday. Naftali Bennett, who heads the New Right party, will take the defense portfolio from Netanyahu, who has simultaneously served as premier and defense minister for nearly a year.

“The appointment will be brought to the government for approval,” according to the Likud spokesman. Bennett, a former settler leader, advocates tough action against Palestinian militants in Gaza and unusual tactics towards Israel’s arch-foe Iran, Reuters said.

Israeli politics is deadlocked after two inconclusive elections this year. Former military chief Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White party emerged neck-and-neck with Netanyahu following a September vote, and both leaders have struggled to put together a ruling coalition.

Gantz, who was asked by Israel’s president to forge a coalition after Netanyahu failed to do so, has less than two weeks left to form a government.