Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) claimed the second Maglia Rosa of the Giro d'Italia by securing the maximum three bonus seconds in stage 2's second intermediate sprint, overtaking Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb).
Bennett was in the lead with a kilometre to go but Viviani showed off his impressive power once again to close in before the final corner.
Italian cyclist Elia Viviani reacts as he crosses the finish line during the third stage of 2018 Giro d'Italia, Tour of Italy.
Sacha Modolo (Cannondale-Drapac) finished second as Bennett faded into third on the 229km stage from Be'er Sheva to Eilat, the longest of this year's race. For a second consecutive stage young Jakub Mareczko (Wilier-Triestina) sprinted well but was unable to produce expert timing. Some riders lost contact as it was not an easy stage.
On Wednesday, after a 65km training ride in the morning, we had an afternoon meeting cancelled at the last moment so my team-mates and I took a taxi into the old town for a wander around and, apart from the beauty of the area, the first thing we noticed was the amount of armed police everywhere. There were some splits but the team did a great job and kept me up front. The wind also went up in the last few kilometres.
Before the start of this season, I hadn't anticipated that I might be riding this Giro d'Italia.
Australian Rohan Dennis finished in the peloton and managed to keep the pink Jersey of the leader. Carlton Kirby was trying his best to brew excitement but I couldn't help but feel I was being punished by being made to watch the peloton roll through the empty desert. I say "looks lovely" because while I'd have no hesitation scoffing down new delicacies on holidays, I've mainly stuck to the staples ahead of today's race start for fear of upsetting my stomach.
The race will then transfer to Italy, and the island of Sicily, for an early rest day on Monday.
"I've been nicely surprised with Israel: when we race outside of Europe, Australia or the USA, it's pretty quiet on the roads".
Sunday's route was the second longest of the 21-stage race and wrapped up the three-day start in Israel, the first time a cycling Grand Tour has been held outside Europe.
Another Italian, Enrico Barbin of Bardiani-CSF, secured the first blue king of the mountains jersey of the 101st edition of the race after picking his way through the crowds to crest the summit of the only categorised climb of the day in pole position.
The trio were allowed to stretch their lead to five minutes during the stage, but they were ultimately reeled back in as the sprinters' teams raised the pace towards the finish.