The Israeli parliament has voted in favour of a new government, successfully ending the 12-year consecutive tenure of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The vote which was 60-59, marks a historic change in the Jewish state’s leadership, replacing its longest-serving prime minister with ultranationalist Naftali Bennett, a hi-tech millionaire, Orthodox Jew whose Yamina party controls just six seats in the 120-member Knesset.
In a power-sharing deal, Mr. Bennett, who heads the Yamina party, will hold office until September 2023, when he will hand over to Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid, for a further two years.
Bennett will start his first premiership at the head of an eight-party coalition stretching from the fringe left to the extreme right and buoyed by support from an Islamist party. It will be the first time in Israeli history that an Arab party will share power with a Zionist government. The coalition has a one-seat majority and political analysts are pessimistic about its long-term survival. parrotreporters.com
In his inaugural speech, Bennett warned that Israel’s political mud-slinging weakened the country. “I am proud of the ability to sit together with people with very different views from my own,” he said, over jeers from Netanyahu’s allies, who called him a “criminal” and “liar”. “To continue on in this way — more elections, more hatred, more vitriol on Facebook — is just not an option,” he added.
Mr. Netanyahu, vowed to lead his Likud Party back to Power and “topple this dangerous government and return to lead the country in our way”
He made it clear he had no plans to relinquish leadership to the right-wing Likud party so will become leader of the opposition
US President Joe Biden congratulated Mr. Bennett and Mr. Lapid on their win and said he is looking forward to working with the Israeli PM “to strengthen all aspects of the close and enduring relationship between our two nations”.
He added that “Israel has no better friend than the United States. The bond that unites our people is evidence of our shared values and decades of close cooperation and as we continue to strengthen our partnership, the United States remains unwavering in its support for Israel’s security.
“My administration is fully committed to working with the new Israeli government to advance security, stability, and peace for Israelis, Palestinians, and people throughout the broader region.”
The new government has pledged to heal a nation bitterly divided over the departure of Mr. Netanyahu, the most dominant Israeli politician of his generation.
These divisions were evident as Mr. Bennett was heckled by supporters of Mr. Netanyahu in a raucous parliamentary session.
Addressing the Knesset ahead of the vote, Mr. Bennett vowed to fight US efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal, a continuation of Mr. Netanyahu’s confrontational policy. “Israel will not allow Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons,” he said. “Israel will not be a party to the agreement and will continue to preserve full freedom of action.”
The ruling coalition looks unlike any before in the country’s 73-year history. It contains parties with extreme ideological differences, including for the first time a party that represents Israel’s 21% Arab minority, Raam.
The leaders are expected to steer clear of drastic moves on international issues such as policy on Palestine, focusing instead on domestic reforms.
But the coalition’s fragile majority means that it could collapse even if just one of the eight factions splintered. The groups are united in little more than their opposition to Mr. Netanyahu.
Mr. Netanyahu had failed to form a government after an election on 23 March, the fourth in two years. His fate was effectively sealed on 2 June, when eight groups with the 61 seats required for a majority signed an agreement.
His trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust – allegations which he denies – continues.