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The Boston Globe

World

Charismatic new leader winning Israelis

RAANANA, Israel — The charismatic new leader of Israel’s Jewish religious right is siphoning a large chunk of votes from the prime minister’s party, according to polls leading up to the Jan. 22 elections, and if the trend continues, the high-tech millionaire and former commando might emerge as a powerful voice opposing Palestinian statehood.

Though Naftali Bennett, the 40-year-old son of US immigrants, is a classic religious hardliner, comfortable in the settlements he champions, he has been able to draw on his military and entrepreneurial background to widen his appeal into secular circles as well. His sprawling home in Raanana, an upscale Tel Aviv suburb, is far from the barren hilltops of West Bank settlers who are the backbone of his support.

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