Israelis Vote for Fresh New Faces to Lead the Country

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TEL AVIV, Israel -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will likely include two new parties from the left and the right as he seeks to hammer together Israel's next coalition government.

The newcomers -- the center-left Yesh Atid (there is a future) and right-wing Bayit Hayehudi (Jewish home) parties -- were the big winners in Israel's elections this week.

"Israelis want to see new faces, highly successful people who are committed to military and national service," Bar-Ilan University Prof. Eytan Gilboa told CBN News.

Israelis voted for those new faces. Fifty out of 120 seats, nearly half of the Knesset, will be first-time lawmakers.

"A Jewish spring is sweeping Israel," Bayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett said on election night.

"I don't want a country that is defined by religion," said Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid. 

For both parties, society is their priority. Yesh Atid's Ya'akov Peri said economic and social issues are the most important.

"Cost of living, the equality of burden in the army service, the national service [are the most important]," Peri said.

"I think that the parties together, Likud [and] Yesh Atid, our party can work together in order to solve the internal issues in Israel," Bayit Hayehudi's Ayelet Shaked told CBN News.

Bayit Hayehudi wants to spread biblical and Jewish values among Israelis. 

"We are going to reinforce the values of Judaism in the education," Yoni Shedbon, from Bayit Hayehudi, said.

Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan from the same party said, "We have a new face. We have a lot of love and not hate. We spoke with a very light fashion. We approached all the people in Israel and we like them."

Bennett, 40, is the son of American immigrants and is a commander of an elite army unit. He made his fortune in hi-tech.

"That's the one thing we gave them constantly was love of eretz Israel [the land of Israel] and the people of Israel and Torah, and we talked politics a lot in our house," Bennett's mother, Myrna, told CBN News.

"We hope he'll go to positions of high leadership in the country, in the government because the country needs him. He's extremely capable," his father, Jim, added.

Bayit Hayehudi wants to see the biblical land of Israel stay in Israeli hands. It's not interested in the U.S.-backed two-state solution with the Palestinians.

"We have partners. We have neighbors. We'll always speak the truth and we'll always be strong in our country. We welcome any discussions with anyone. But we're here to stay," Bennett said.

Lapid has different ideas. As a successful Israeli journalist and television personality, he's being touted in the media as the perfect foreign minister.

"I think if the PM really wanted to negotiate and felt there are people to negotiate with he would have. If an Israeli PM wants to go to the negotiation table, he will sit in [at] the negotiation table," Lapid said.

"I think this is part of what I'm going to do or at least try and make the next government do this because it's so essential to my mind," he said.

But even for Lapid, not everything is negotiable.

"Jerusalem is not a place. Jerusalem is an idea. Jerusalem is an ethos this country was established by," he said. "I don't think Americans for any kind of agreement will give up the Capitol Hill and I don't think Israelis should give up their own capital because this is the reason why we are here."

"And if we have to fight for it we will fight for it. I think we can have an agreement and they will understand eventually Jerusalem should stay Israeli because this is the foundation of our existence here," Lapid said.

For now, Netanyahu will have to negotiate with each of these men to merge their ideas into the next Israeli government.

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CBN News
Julie Stahl

Julie Stahl

CBN News Mideast Correspondent

CBN News is a national/international, nonprofit news organization that provides programming by cable, satellite, and the Internet, 24-hours a day. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.