Former businessman and rising political star Naftali Bennett is projected to win the Habayit Hayehudi's first ever primary vote on Tuesday, with exit polls seeing the newcomer taking over the party's leadership in a landslide victory.
In his projected victory, Bennett, who led an aggressive campaign to register new members to the right-wing party, beat longtime party strongman and former minister Zevulun Orlev.
After being informed of the projected results, Orlev called to congratulate Bennett, saying that he would bow out of political life.
Bennett, 40, was born in Haifa, and served in the IDF's elite Sayeret Matkal. Later in life, he formed a high-tech firm, which he later sold for tens of millions of dollars. He served as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's bureau chief during his time as opposition head, as well as the secretary general of the Yesha Council.
The two candidates - a third, Yehuda Cohen, who stood no realistic chance - reflect the changes in religious Zionist society in recent years. Orlev represents the old generation of National Religious Party officials, while Bennett is a man of the new generation.
Orlev knows his place, and will be content with a seat at the cabinet table, while Bennett believes religious Zionism should lead the country, privately talking about eventually getting elected prime minister. Orlev is grayish and old, Bennett, charismatic and articulate.
Orlev enjoys the support of the party apparatus, including the Natan Eshel-type behind-the-scenes operators, while Bennett brought into the party a new generation that had previously been revolted by the NRP.
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