Bennet wants to use settlers to boost Israel’s PR

New Judea and Samaria council head seeks to change current image of settlements as a liability to the Jewish state.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN,
February 2, 2010 01:50
3 minute read.
Naftali Bennet, new director-general of the Counci

Naftali Bennet 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The new director-general of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, Naftali Bennett, believes settlers should be at the forefront of defending Israel abroad and should not be seen internationally as a liability to the Jewish state.


Bennett learned about how to improve Israel’s image from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu when he served as his chief of staff from 2006-2008 while the Likud leader headed the opposition. Now Bennett will face off against Netanyahu on issues such as the construction moratorium in Judea and Samaria.

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“I am happy that the Council put its trust in me,” Bennett said. “I know there will be many challenges ahead and that I have very big shoes to fill.” Bennett will replace Pinhas Wallerstein, who resigned from the post a few weeks ago.

A native of Israel, Bennett, 37, lived in Manhattan for four-and-a-half years while serving as CEO of the hi-tech company he co-founded, Cyota.

He sold the company to RSA Security for $145 million in 2005.

A major in the IDF reserves, Bennett served in the IDF’s elite Sayeret Matkal and Maglan units. He led several operations in South Lebanon during his initial service and served in the Second Lebanon War in the reserves.

Bennet lives in Ra’anana, making him the council’s first director-general who has not lived in Judea and Samaria.

Wallerstein, in contrast, was one of the first residents of the Ofra settlement and was responsible for helping develop the entire Binyamin region. He had held public positions in Judea and Samaria since 1975.

Former Kedumim mayor Daniella Weiss said she did not believe the residents of Judea and Samaria could be well served by someone who lived outside the region.

“It creates a situation where he cannot identify with or understand many of our concerns,” said Weiss.

There are so many issues that can only be properly understood by living in the region, day in and day out, she said.

“If you don’t feel it on your flesh, it’s not the same,” she said.

“In my opinion he won’t stay in this position more than a few months,” she added.

But Karnei Shomron council head Herzl Ben-Ari said Bennett’s address had nothing to do with his qualifications for the job.

“My sister doesn’t live in Judea and Samaria and that fact says nothing about her ideology or her Zionism,” said Ben-Ari.

Bennett, he said, “is the right person in the right place.”

He added that Bennett had impressive business, managerial and political experience that would be an asset to the council.

“We should bless him and wish him success, because his success is our success,” said Ben-Ari.

The Gush Etzion Regional Council head said he was concerned the selection process had not been carried out properly.

He said the job had not been adequately publicized.

Goldstein added that there should have been more collective discussions about the positions and its goals before a choice was made.

Instead, Bennett was presented to the council executive committee on the day of the vote.

Still, Goldstein added, Bennett could be a good choice for the job, and the fact that he comes from Ra’anana is an asset and not a detriment.

“He knows the language of Tel Aviv,” said Goldstein. Improving the image of Judea and Samaria in their eyes has to be one of the council’s main targets, he said.

It’s the people who live throughout Israel who will make decisions regarding the future fate of Judea and Samaria, Goldstein said.

Dani Dayan, who chairs the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, said that according to the council’s regulations it was his responsibility to recommend a candidate to the executive committee, which approved his choice.

“I think he is the most suitable person and an impressive young person,” said Dayan, who added that he has the “management and leadership skills as well as the vision that are needed.”


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