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Netanyahu (R) with Bennett in 2016. Photo: Abir Sultan/AFP via Getty Images

In a surprising move, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has appointed Naftali Bennett, leader of a small conservative party, as defense minister.

Why it matters: This move is purely political. Netanyahu was worried Bennett would agree to join a coalition led by Benny Gantz, giving Gantz the majority he'd need to displace Netanyahu and form a government. Gantz has another 10 days to form a government before he loses his mandate.

Bennett’s appointment is surprising because for the last five years he has been one of Netanyahu’s main political rivals and a sharp critic on national security issues, including the situation in Gaza.

  • Bennett was Netanyahu’s chief of staff a decade ago when he was opposition leader, but relations broke down and Bennett began to be treated by Netanyahu as a political arch-enemy.
  • Bennett is a right-wing hardliner, but his appointment will not dramatically change Israeli security policy vis a vis Gaza, Syria, Lebanon or Iran.
  • Bennett will be an interim minister in a transition government that, according to the law, is very limited in its ability to take dramatic decisions.

The bottom line: Netanyahu’s move will make Gantz’s mission to form a government even harder. Gantz’s only possibility now is to try and form a minority government with the support of the Arab Joint List — something he is very reluctant to do.

Go deeper

Updated 18 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Liz Cheney: Americans deserve better than choice of Biden or Trump

Rep. Liz Cheney talks with Lesley Stahl on CBS' "60 Minutes." Photo: CBS News

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) told CBS' "60 Minutes" in an interview broadcast Sunday that Americans "deserve better than having to choose between" President Biden's "disastrous" policies and former President Trump, "who violated his oath of office."

Why it matters: Cheney made the remarks after CBS' Lesley Stahl put it to her in the interview that Republicans feel that her joining the House select committee in charge of investigating the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot helps "keep the focus on Trump instead of on the shortcomings of the Biden administration."

5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

First look: The LCV's $4M ad buy

A screenshot from a new League of Conservation Voters ad supporting Rep. Stephanie Murphy.

The League of Conservation Voters and Climate Power are aiming another $4 million worth of ads at centrist House Democrats, urging them to support the climate provisions in President Biden’s $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Progressive groups are trying to counter the onslaught of conservative money pouring into swing districts. Both sides are trying to define Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda and pressure lawmakers to support — or oppose — the legislation scheduled for a vote in the House this week.

5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Shutdown Plan B

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Senate will hold a futile vote Monday night — just 72 hours before a potential shutdown — on a House-passed bill to fund the government through Dec. 3 and raise the debt limit.

Why it matters: The bill is going to fail. Period. But then comes Plan B: A "clean" continuing resolution — stripped of language about raising the debt limit — that Democrats spent the past week preparing, Axios is told.