Naftali Bennett’s former commander from his days in the military’s elite Sayeret Matkal unit said Monday that he can no longer call the new prime minister by his nickname, Naftul.
“The Naftul nickname was given to Bennett in the unit. From now on, I will call him, ‘Mr. Prime Minister,'” Lt. Col. (Res.) Levy told Channel 12 news.
Levy described to the network what he remembered of Bennett from his military days: “Naftali was the leader of the team from the very beginning. He was very prominent, very considerate, and calm.”
Bennett on Monday visited the grave of his fallen comrade Lt. Col. Emmanuel Moreno in Jerusalem, following a gathering at the official residence of President Reuven Rivlin for a group photo with the new government members.
Moreno, of the same elite unit as Bennett, was killed in the Second Lebanon War. The IDF has never published his photo due to the sensitivity of the operations he took part in during the 2006 conflict.
“Naftali was the head of the team, and Emmanuel was the heart,” Levy told the network. “We were the first team in the unit with four religious soldiers,” among whom was also Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana of Bennett’s Yamina party.
Levy said that his relationship with Bennett strengthened further after Moreno was killed.
“Last night, Naftali and Matan sent me a very moving photo of the two of them together in the plenum. They wrote me a few words that will stay between us. I wrote to them that I was very proud of them,” Levi said.
An unlikely alliance headed by Bennett and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid — of right-wing, left-wing, centrist, and Islamist parties — was sworn in on Sunday.
Bennett, 49, is Israel’s second-youngest prime minister — the record for youngest stays with Benjamin Netanyahu, who was just 46 when he first assumed the role in 1996.