The man at the podium seems fidgety, his eyes darting around the hall, his hands tapping at a BlackBerry as others speak. Sometimes even while he speaks.

Certainly, Naftali Bennett has plenty to be excited about. As the 40-year-old leader of Habayit Hayehudi (The Jewish Home), he has not only revitalized that ultra-nationalist, religious party, but perhaps the entire Israeli political right.

Bennett has virtually no chance of becoming prime minister when Israeli voters go to the polls on Tuesday. That job will almost certainly go to the incumbent, Benjamin Netanyahu.

But in this election campaign, the newcomer has consistently eclipsed many veteran politicians. His party threatens to end up in a strong third place — going from its current three seats in the 120-seat Knesset to as many as 15, if the polls are right.

Those same polls predict a significant drop for Netanyahu's Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu bloc, a loss of more than half a dozen seats, though probably not enough to cost him first place — or his job. 

In Bennett's case, it is his past that has inspired supporters: hi-tech entrepreneur and millionaire, former elite commando in the Israeli military, and leader of the Jewish settler movement in the occupied territories.

But it is his present political positions that have raised eyebrows — both here and abroad.

Put bluntly, the way Bennett usually puts things himself, he doesn’t think the Palestinians should have their own state.

"I believe if a Palestinian state would be founded there would be eternal strife," he says. "A miserable life for the next 200 years between us and the Palestinians.

"Because every time in the past 20 years that we handed over land either with an agreement or without an agreement, unilaterally, we got as a result war and misery for both sides."

With a two-state solution, as the West has been seeking for decades now, Israel would be left feeble and weak, Bennett says. Palestinians "are just going to shoot missiles at us, you don’t have to be a genius to see it."

Instead, he proposes that Israel unilaterally annex most of the West Bank, an area the whole world — including Israel itself — considers under temporary military occupation. It is controlled by Israeli troops until that elusive peace deal can finally draw permanent boundaries for the two independent countries.

Under Bennett's plan, Jewish settlements in the West Bank, home to some 400,000 settlers, would become a permanent part of Israel, along with any areas deemed militarily important. That includes a huge swath of the Jordan Valley, all along the Dead Sea and the Jordan River.

Major Palestinian centres like Ramallah and Jericho would be under local administration, though ultimately under Israeli control, much like they are now.

That approach would be a radical departure from Israel's longstanding official position, supporting two states. It is also too radical for some Israeli voters, who say it would draw more international criticism and further isolate their country.

Others though, frustrated by the lack of any other progress and frightened by the recent missile attacks from Palestinian militants in Gaza, have warmed to Bennett's frankness. And Netanyahu himself has sent mixed messages.

The prime minister says he supports a Palestinian state in principle, but his critics have long accused him of doing everything possible to stymie negotiations and prolong deadlock.

Nationalist rhetoric

Bennett's popularity, however, isn’t the only thing pushing Israeli politics further to the right this time out, making its rhetoric more nationalistic.

Shortly before the election was called in October, Netanyahu announced an unexpected merger between his party, Likud, and Yisrael Beiteinu, a party that counts on secular, Russian Jews for its main support.

Yisrael Beiteinu is considered more nationalist and more right-wing than Likud, and its leader, Avigdor Leiberman, more extreme in his comments against Palestinians. Leiberman stepped down as Netanyahu's foreign minister last month, after being charged with fraud, but he continues to campaign.

Likud itself has also replaced some of its moderate voices, members of Netanyahu's old cabinet, with more extreme right-wingers.

Among them, Moshe Feiglin, a settler activist who once told The New Yorker magazine that no Palestinian should ever have a say in Israel's future.

"You can't teach a monkey to speak and you can't teach an Arab to be democratic," he said. "You're dealing with a culture of thieves and robbers." Feiglin will almost certainly be a member of the new government in the Knesset.

Likud's new face does not seem to have helped Netanyahu, as the party's support has dropped in the past weeks, bleeding to Bennett on the right and to more centrist parties on the left.

Polls in the last days of the campaign show the Labour Party in second place, attracting those disillusioned by Israel's high cost of living, high rents and high taxes.

Labour promises to reopen negotiations with the Palestinian leadership within three months of taking power. A new centrist party, Yesh Atid, led by a well-known TV anchor has also grabbed significant support, especially from those upset that settlers and ultra-orthodox religious Jews enjoy huge government subsidies.

Still, Netanyahu and his Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu bloc seem to have a significant lead. Without a clear majority, it will need partners to govern.

And if, as most observers expect, it turns to Bennett and other parties on the right for a coalition, Israel could soon have one of its most conservative — and nationalistic — governments ever.

Should that happen, Palestinians would have an even less receptive ear among Israel's leaders.