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Naftali Bennett: Tech millionaire and Israel's new prime minister

Mena|World|: Jerusalem: Naftali Bennett, a multi-millionaire former tech entrepreneur, will be Israel's new prime minister after parliament approved a new government on Sunday. The 120-member Knesset voted in favour of an improbable coalition put together by centrist Yair Lapid, with a razor-thin majority but enough to end veteran Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's 12 unbroken years at the helm. The coalition deal sees Bennett, an estranged former protege of Netanyahu, serve first as prime minister in a rotation deal, before Lapid takes over after two years. A 49-year-old former defence minister and one-time special forces commando, Bennett leads the right-wing Yamina party, which has called for Israel to annex parts of the occupied West Bank. He will be Israel's first premier to lead an openly religious lifestyle, and the first to sport the kippa, the small skullcap worn by religious Jewish men. The son of American-born parents who speaks perfect English, he is ultra-liberal on the economy and takes a hard line against Israel's arch-foe, Iran. He shares this ideology with Netanyahu, having served in several of the Likud leader's governments. But in recent years tensions between intensified and Netanyahu made little effort to hide his disdain for Bennett. In late May, two months after Israel's fourth inconclusive election in two years, Bennett reached a deal with Lapid that paved the way for the improbable eight-party coalition approved by parliament on Sunday. Personal life Bennett lives with his wife Gilat and their four children in the central city of Raanana. He entered politics after selling his tech start-up for $145 million in 2005, and the next year became chief of staff to Netanyahu, who was then in the opposition. After leaving Netanyahu's office, Bennett in 2010 became head of the Yesha Council. He took politics by storm in 2012, taking charge of the hard-right Jewish Home party, which was facing annihilation. He increased its parliamentary presence fourfold. Beyond holding the defence portfolio, Bennett served as Netanyahu's economy minister and education minister. He re-branded Jewish Home as the "New Right" party, before forging the Yamina ("Rightward") bloc in 2018, and was part of Netanyahu's coalition which collapsed the same year. But he was not asked to join a unity government in May 2020 - a move seen as an expression of Netanyahu's personal contempt towards him. In 2020, in opposition and with the coronavirus pandemic raging, Bennett put aside his right-wing rhetoric to focus on the health crisis. He moved to broaden his appeal by releasing plans to contain Covid-19 and aid the economy. 'Natural successor' Former supporters and critics have accused Bennett of betraying his nationalist voters by joining a coalition that includes dovish Meretz and support from the Arab Israeli Islamic conservative party Raam. But Bennett has said he is on a mission to restore Israel's governance and avoid a fifth election in little more than two years. In an interview with Channel 12 news, he justified his decision to join the "change" coalition despite explicit campaign pledges to not be part of a government headed by or formed with Lapid. "The core promise of these elections was to extract Israel from chaos," he told. "I chose what's good for Israel." While risking alienating his traditional right-wing base by breaking a campaign promise in order to topple Netanyahu, Bennett's move could enable him to broaden his support in the long run. "The chance to serve as prime minister is a huge opportunity for Bennett to present himself as prime ministerial material," said Toby Greene, a political scientist at Bar Ilan university near Tel Aviv. Bennett could thus "present himself to (the) Israeli mainstream as the natural successor to Netanyahu, as the candidate of the Right who has shown he can run the country", he said.

GulfNews World

G-7's 1 billion pledge for new vaccine doses comes up short

World|: The Group of Seven fell short on fulfilling a pledge of 1 billion additional vaccine doses it will donate to developing nations, revealing gaps in the bloc between vaccine haves and have-nots. The world leaders made the 1-billion-shot pledge on Sunday - and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the G-7 would collectively distribute 2.3 billion vaccine doses to developing countries by next year. "Recognizing that ending the pandemic in 2022 will require vaccinating at least 60% of the global population, we will intensify our action to save lives," the leaders said in their final communique from the G-7 summit in the coastal Cornwall region of the UK. But Merkel's larger figure includes a much wider array of contributions already offered, as well future exports, according to a European official. So far, the G-7 countries have promised 613 million truly new doses - including some funded in part by previously announced aid. If doses already announced in recent weeks by G-7 and EU nations are included, the tally grows to roughly 870 million doses, according to the communique. To reach the 1 billion figure, G-7 officials included pledges made starting back in February. The communique also was the latest sign in a standoff over whether to waive intellectual-property rights as a way to try to increase vaccine production. Big splash The leaders clearly wanted to make a big splash with the promise. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson kicked off the summit by emphasizing the target, and US President Joe Biden hailed his government's commitment to supply half of the 1 billion new doses. The biggest batches come from countries that had cornered the market early on for domestic use. The US and the UK account for nearly all the new pledges - after they steered hundreds of millions of doses produced on their soil for their own citizens, while restricting exports for months. That approach led to stark vaccine disparities globally, even among the wealthy members of the G-7. The US and UK have fully vaccinated nearly half their populations while Japan and Canada have fully vaccinated less than 10%. "It's a good step, but the G-7 should feel far from content," said Krishna Udayakumar, the founding director of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center. "It seems like for an announcement, they went for a nice big round number without a lot of detail around it. Hopefully there is detail around it, as opposed to being figured out after the fact," he said. Intellectual property Health advocates have warned that the world needs billions of doses to quell the pandemic and to halt uncontrolled spread that generates more dangerous variants, against which vaccine protection may be less effective. The pledges come as the bloc grapples with another question - whether and how to lift intellectual-property rights protections for the vaccines. Biden threw his weight behind that idea but it has languished after Merkel opposed it. The communique pledged only to "support manufacturing in low-income countries," but didn't say specifically how. It noted the "importance of intellectual property" and the "positive impact" of voluntary licensing - both clauses that reflect the view of countries opposed to a waiver. "We will explore all options to ensure affordable and accessible Covid-19 tools for the poorest countries," it said. Despite some lingering resentment, the new doses pledged at the summit are a welcome sign to nations without domestic vaccine production that have been desperately awaiting shots. The new and existing pledges include: While some of that was previously announced, the latest measures are also in some cases not entirely new. The 500 million doses pledged by the U.S. will be funded in part by $2 billion that Biden had initially promised for Covax, the World Health Organization-backed initiative aimed at facilitating equitable global distribution. Biden will claw that money back and buy doses directly, then work with Covax to distribute them. Biden also has said he'll share 80 million doses by the end of this month. Those are expected to be a mix of Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna Inc. and AstraZeneca Plc shots. The 100 million UK doses - including 5 million to be distributed by September and a total of 30 million in 2021 - will be a mix of several suppliers and will be based on UK supply. The cost of the doses remains unclear. The Canadian pledge includes 13 million directly donated doses as well as a previously announced C$440 million ($361.9 million) pledge to Covax. Counting that money, Canada framed its donation as up to 100 million doses total, though only the 13 million are new. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's vaccination program initially struggled from a lack of domestic production, leaving it reliant on imports and now facing a belated wave of orders rolling in. Not enough? As part of a recasting the EU's target, the official said the bloc would double the number of vaccines to be exported to 700 million by the end of the year from the current 350 million. Millions of doses have been exported from the EU to other G-7 members, including the UK, Japan and Canada. The speed of donations is as important as the number of shots, Udayakumar said. The pledges "seems to indicate a back-loading of the volume" despite the current pressing need. "That would be the most negative impact, if we actually waited three to six months to get substantial doses out the door," he said. Critics said the promises aren't enough. Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, an UK-based advocacy group, called Johnson's pledge of 100 million doses "crumbs from the table." "Today we're only offering to give 100 million doses to the rest of the world - and only by the middle of next year. It's little more than a PR gimmick," Dearden said in a statement. He called on Johnson and Merkel to back the intellectual property waiver; the communique showed the countries divided on that issue.