Head of Oposition Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett gesture following the vote on the brand new coalition on the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem June 13, 2021. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
June 13, 2021
By Jeffrey Heller and Maayan Lubell
JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Benjamin Netanyahu’s document 12-year run as Israel’s prime minister ended on Sunday with parliament approving a brand new “authorities of change” led by nationalist Naftali Bennett, an unbelievable situation few Israelis may have imagined.
However the razor-thin 60-59 vote of confidence in a coalition of left-wing, centrist, right-wing and Arab events with little in frequent aside from a need to unseat Netanyahu, solely underscored its seemingly fragility.
Addressing parliament earlier than Bennett was sworn in, a combative Netanyahu stated: “If we’re destined to enter the opposition, we are going to accomplish that with our heads held excessive till we are able to topple it.”
That may occur, 71-year-old Netanyahu added, “prior to individuals assume”.
The brand new authorities, fashioned after an inconclusive March 23 election, largely plans to keep away from sweeping strikes on hot-button worldwide points comparable to coverage towards the Palestinians, and to focus as a substitute on home reforms.
Palestinians had been unmoved by the change of administration, predicting that Bennett, a former defence chief who advocates annexing elements of the occupied West Financial institution, would pursue the identical right-wing agenda as Likud celebration chief Netanyahu.
Israel’s longest-serving chief, Netanyahu was prime minister since 2009, after a primary time period from 1996 to 1999.
However he was weakened by his repeated failure to clinch victory in 4 elections over the previous two years, together with a vote in March, and by an ongoing corruption trial, wherein he has denied any wrongdoing.
Below the coalition deal, Bennett, a 49-year-old Orthodox Jew and high-tech millionaire, shall be changed as prime minister by centrist Yair Lapid, 57, a well-liked former tv host, in 2023.
Along with his far-right Yamina celebration profitable solely six of parliament’s 120 seats within the final election, Bennett’s ascension to the premiership as the top of a kaleidoscope of events was a political jaw-dropper.
Interrupted by continuous shouts of “liar” and “disgrace” from Netanyahu loyalists in parliament, Bennett thanked the previous prime minister for his “prolonged and achievement-filled service on behalf of the State of Israel”.
However little love has been misplaced between the 2 males: Bennett as soon as served as Netanyahu’s chief of workers and had a rocky relationship with him as defence minister. Within the run-up to the brand new authorities, Bennett spurned Netanyahu’s name to hitch with him, somewhat than with Lapid.
On the worldwide stage, along with his polished English and booming baritone voice, Netanyahu had change into the face of Israel.
He resisted worldwide requires Palestinian statehood he described as a hazard to Israel’s safety, whereas forging formal relations with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan and decrying Iran’s nuclear programme.
U.S. President Joe Biden congratulated Bennett, Lapid and the remainder of the brand new cupboard and stated he seemed ahead to working with Bennett to strengthen the “shut and enduring” relationship between their two international locations.
“My administration is absolutely dedicated to working with the brand new Israeli authorities to advance safety, stability, and peace for Israelis, Palestinians, and folks all through the broader area,” Biden stated in an announcement.
Each overseas and at house, Netanyahu has been a polarising determine. Typically referred to by his nickname Bibi, Netanyahu is liked by his supporters and loathed by critics.
His opponents have lengthy reviled what they see as Netanyahu’s divisive rhetoric, underhand political techniques and subjection of state pursuits to his personal political survival. Some have dubbed him “Crime Minister” and have accused him of mishandling the coronavirus disaster and its financial fallout.
Addressing parliament, Bennett echoed Netanyahu’s name for the US to not return to the 2015 nuclear pact between Iran and world powers, a deal abrogated by Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump.
“Renewal of the nuclear settlement with Iran is a mistake, an error that may once more grant legitimisation to one of many darkest and violent regimes on the planet,” Bennett stated. “Israel won’t enable Iran to equip itself with nuclear weapons.”
Thanking Biden for his “years of dedication to Israel’s safety”, and for “standing by Israel” throughout preventing with Hamas militants in Gaza final month, Bennett stated his authorities would pursue good relations with U.S. Democrats and Republicans.
“The federal government will make an effort to deepen and improve our relationships with each events – bipartisan,” Bennett stated.
Bennett has drawn anger from throughout the right-wing camp for breaking a marketing campaign pledge by becoming a member of forces with Lapid – and an allegation from Netanyahu that he defrauded the citizens. Bennett has stated one other election – a possible end result if no authorities had been fashioned – would have been a catastrophe for Israel.
Each Bennett and Lapid have stated they wish to bridge political divides and unite Israelis beneath a authorities that may work onerous for all its residents.
Their cupboard, which met for the primary time late on Sunday, faces enormous international, safety and monetary challenges: Iran, a fragile ceasefire with Palestinian militants in Gaza, a struggle crimes probe by the Worldwide Legal Court docket, and financial restoration following the coronavirus pandemic.
Bennett listed as priorities reforms in training, well being, slicing pink tape to develop companies and decrease housing prices. Coalition leaders have stated it could cross a two-year finances to assist stabilise the nation’s funds and preserve a “established order” on points of faith and state.
(Reporting by Maayan Lubell and Jeffrey HellerEditing by William Maclean, Jane Merriman, Frances Kerry and Andrew Heavens)