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Yamina chief Bennett hospitalized with neck pains

Right-wing leader, who has gained popularity as government flounders in COVID-19 battle, to remain at Sheba Medical Center until results of tests come back

Then-defense minister Naftali Bennett delivers a statement to the media in Ariel, in the West Bank, January 26, 2020. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)
Then-defense minister Naftali Bennett delivers a statement to the media in Ariel, in the West Bank, January 26, 2020. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)

Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett was hospitalized Tuesday after experiencing pain in his neck, according to a statement from his office.

Bennett underwent a series of medical examinations at Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv. At doctors’ advice, he was to remain in the hospital until test results come back.

Bennett, 48, was quoted as saying he was feeling well and would resume his activities soon.

The health scare came a day after Bennett came under vociferous attack from his former right-wing allies for voting with the opposition on a no-confidence measure that would have brought down Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

The measure, which failed, would have replaced Netanyahu with opposition leader Yair Lapid, who heads the centrist Yesh Atid party.

“Once a conniver, always a conniver. Bennett decided this evening to finally quit the right-wing bloc and recommend Yair Lapid [for prime minister],” Likud said in a statement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, speaks with Defense Minister Naftali Bennett during a meeting in the Knesset with the heads of right-wing parties, March 4, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Defending the vote, Yamina said Bennett and Matan Kahana had voted to topple the government, not to back Lapid.

“Every novice knows that there was no chance of crowning Lapid as prime minister,” the party said in a statement. “We suggest that Likud Knesset members deal with eradicating the coronavirus and restoring the livelihood [of Israelis] and not more third-rate spin.”

Bennett has declared himself a candidate for prime minister, and recent polls have indicated that his opposition right-wing party — which currently holds just five seats in the 120-member Knesset — could win as many as 23 seats with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud at just 26.

He has offered scathing criticism of the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and become increasingly popular in recent months, being seen as a possible threat to Netanyahu’s continued rule.

The Yamina leader served as defense minister briefly under Netanyahu but was left in the opposition earlier this year when Netanyahu formed a unity government with centrist leader Benny Gantz.

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