Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid: who are Israel's potential new leaders set to replace Benjamin Netanyahu?

The pair have little in common politically, but are set to bring an end to Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12 year tenure as prime minister

Yair Lapid (L), leader of the Yesh Atid party and Naftali Bennett have formed a coalition (Getty Images)

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu s opponents are pushing for a quick vote to end his record-setting rule, racing to head off what is expected to be a frantic push by the premier and his allies to derail the newly announced coalition.

The new phase of political warfare began hours after opposition leader Yair Lapid and his main coalition partner, Naftali Bennett - an ideological odd couple - said they had reached a deal to link a majority of the Knesset and form a new government.

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The coalition consists of eight parties from across the political spectrum with the shared goal of toppling Mr Netanyahu after a record-setting 12 years in power.

The alliance includes hardliners previously allied with the premier, as well as centre-left parties and even an Arab faction - a first in Israeli politics.

Mr Bennett, a former ally of Mr Netanyahu, will serve the first two years, followed by Mr Lapid - though it is far from certain their fragile coalition will last that long.

The deal comes at a tumultuous time for Israel, which fought an 11-day war against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip last month while also experiencing mob violence between Jews and Arabs in cities across the country.

Here’s what you need to know about the two leaders spearheading the effort to oust Benjamin Netanyahu.

Who is Naftali Bennett?

Naftali Bennett is the leader of the Yamina party, who claimed just seven seats at the last Israeli general election.

The right-wing leader is a former commando, as well as a self-made tech millionaire.

Bennett once worked with Netanyahu as his chief of staff from 2006 to 2008 before the pair fell out, with Bennett changing allegiances from the current prime minister’s Likud party to the right-wing nationalist party Jewish Home Party.

Naftali Bennett is described by many as an ultra-nationalist with the leader describing his views as further right than current prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He and his party, which was formed in 2019, advocate for the annexation of the West Bank.

He has been criticised in the past for his violent views, saying in 2013 that “terrorists should be killed, not released”. In 2018 he said Israeli forces should have a shoot to kill policy for anyone attempting to cross the border from Gaza. Asked whether he would support the shooting of minors, he said: “They are not children. They are terrorists. We are fooling ourselves.”

Who is Yair Lapid?

Yair Lapid is the leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party.

Once a television presenter, Lapid entered politics in 2012 forming his current party. In 2013 they became the second biggest party in Israel, later forming a coalition with Netanyahu’s Likud Party.

Lapid would serve as finance minister from 2013 to 2014.

In May 2020 he became the official Leader of the Opposition.

Lapid is reportedly in favour of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, though is against any potential division of Jerusalem.