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The unorthodox Israeli settlement leader - who isn't even a settler

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"Obama got beaten by Naftali," says Gil Hoffman, a political commentator for the conservative Jerusalem Post. "He won by reminding Netanyahu of his credibility. [The prime minister] realizes that he has a credibility problem and that people don’t trust him, and if he loses his credibility, it's political suicide."

An unorthodox leader to challenge stereotypes

That Bennett doesn’t actually live in an Israeli settlement makes him an unusual figure among the settlers. The movement that has traditionally viewed staking claim to hilltop heartland of the biblical Land of Israel as a personal and national mission.

Bennett’s appointment earlier this year to the helm of the Yesha Council was also unorthodox because he is a technology entrepreneur who became a multimillionaire four years ago when he sold the software company he co-founded for $145 million.

His selection reflects the tensions between two conflicting tendencies in the settler movement, which is often torn between a race to the hilltops and a desire for acceptance by the Israeli mainstream.

The choice of Bennett, is an effort to offset the stereotype that the settlers are an extremist ideological monolith, say analysts.

"It reflects moxie. They’re saying, 'You think were a bunch of fat settlers with big yarmulkes? So we’ll put a skinny high-tech millionaire who lives in Raanana in charge,' " says Mr. Hoffman. "They have tried to make themselves look mainstream and not extremist, and say they are the salt of the earth like everyday Israelis."

Bennett says he is just as focused on Israel proper as the settlements. Indeed, at a time when the settlers worry that Netanyahu’s plan for a Palestinian state will force the dismantling communities in the West Bank, Bennett says his role is reaching out to everyday Israelis to stir sympathy for the setters’ cause.

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