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New Yorkers Cautiously Optimistic Bennett Will Be Good For Israel; Local Palestinians Not Confident Move Will Benefit Middle East

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Monday was the first full day on the job for Israel's new prime minister, Naftali Bennett.

After a record 12 years in office, Benjamin Netanyahu was ousted by just one vote on Sunday.

New Yorkers have so many ties to the region, and are watching developments closely, CBS2's Lisa Rozner reported.

Bennett, 49, got to work with his new coalition, the most diverse in history, including an Arab party and an openly gay member.

Israel's acting consul general in New York, Israel Nitzan, said the minister of foreign affairs, Yair Lapid, wants to build relationships with different streams of Judaism in the United States.

"The government's view vision is to have a strong bipartisan nature of our relationship," Nitzan said. "I'm looking forward to hosting them actually here in New York, hopefully soon."

Prime Minister Bennett made millions of dollars in the tech world. His parents are from California.

Some New Yorkers are optimistic.

"I think it may be a very good thing, but we won't know for time," said Gillian Rosenfeld of the Upper West Side.

"Netanyahu's challenges to Democratic institutions, his use of language, very Trumpian in all those regards, so, yeah, I prefer Bennett," Robbins said.

Others said they prefer Netanyahu.

"He's very, very smart. He's intelligent. He was more loyal to his voters," UWS resident Vered George said.

"He's a bright guy. He managed to create good relations with some of the Arab countries," resident Frank Kaufman added.

Bennett was once an ally of Netanyahu, serving most recently as the minister of defense. He even came to the U.S. the last several years. In 2018, he spoke with CBS2's Marcia Kramer after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, saying at the time, "In certain synagogues, certain locations, it may be necessary to have the armed guards. That's our experience, but we want to continue life."

Some criticized Netanyahu for keeping control of foreign affairs even as prime minister. As for whether Bennett's leadership can bring peace in the Middle East, one expert said it will be a tall task.

"It's going to be harder than previously because of the situation in Jerusalem, because of the recent war in Gaza," said Khaled Elgindy, director of the Program on Palestine and Palestinian-Israeli Affairs at the Middle East Institute.

Palestinian-Americans told CBS2 they are not optimistic, even with the diverse coalition.

"This new prime minister, Bennett, he is the same or even worse than Netanyahu. He's always been a Zionist settler extremist who is blatantly racist to Palestinians and wants to expand settlements," activist Nerdeen Kiswani said.

"The American Muslim community, Palestinian-Americans, do not view the inclusion of one Palestinian political group to stop Israel's policies of apartheid, land confiscation, evicting renters or trampling the rights of worshipers at Al Aqsa mosque," said Robert McCaw, the director of the Government Affairs Department at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

Like Netanyahu, Bennett opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state. He has also vowed to oppose U.S.-led efforts to restore the international nuclear accord with Iran.

President Joe Biden spoke with Bennett on Sunday and congratulated him. Bennett will serve as prime minister for two years and then Israel's foreign minister will take over and serve the next two years.

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