News

Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu defeated, Naftali Bennett sworn in as new Prime Minister

Advertisements
Left: Head of the Yamina party Naftali Bennett has ousted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Prime vote (PHOTO /Courtesy)

Left: Head of the Yamina party Naftali Bennett has ousted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Prime vote (PHOTO /Courtesy)

JERUSALEM — Naftali Bennett was sworn in as Israel’s new prime minister on Sunday, after winning a confidence vote with the narrowest of margins, just 60 votes to 59.

His victory ends a 12-year grip on power by former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the country’s longest-serving leader.

After four elections in two years, Bennett’s incoming government breaks a long political deadlock and ushers in the most diverse coalition Israel has ever seen, including the first Arab party to serve in the government. In his speech before the Knesset confidence vote, Bennett celebrated the diversity and warned of polarization within the country.

“Twice in history, we have lost our national home precisely because the leaders of the generation were not able to sit with one and another and compromise. Each was right, yet with all their being right, they burnt the house down on top of us,” Bennett said. “I am proud of the ability to sit together with people with very different views from my own.”

Bennett became the premier as the leader of Yamina, a right-wing party with only seven seats in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, making him the only prime minister in the country’s history with such a small faction. By contrast, Netanyahu’s Likud party won 30 seats in March’s election. Once again, however, Netanyahu could not cobble together a governing coalition with a majority of the 120 members of Knesset.

During the debate ahead of the swearing-in, Netanyahu assailed the coalition that ousted him from the Prime Minister’s Office after a record 12 consecutive years, calling it a “weak” and “dangerous” government. Long considered the “magician” of Israeli politics, Netanyahu had survived years of challenges to his power, outlasting and outmaneuvering his opponents. But on this night, he had too many opponents who wanted to see him gone.

After touting his accomplishments throughout his years in office, Netanyahu assailed his rivals.

“You call yourself the guardians of democracy, but you are so afraid of democracy that you are ready to pass fascist laws against my candidacy — the language of North Korea and Iran — in order to maintain your regime,” he said, referring to speculation that the new government would impose term limits or make it illegal for someone who has been indicted to be Prime Minister.

Warning that the new government would not stand up to Iran, Netanyahu warned his internal rivals and outside enemies, “We’ll be back soon.”

Common ground
Bennett’s path to victory seemed all but lost during 11 days of fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants last month, when Netanyahu appeared to scuttle any chances of the opposition parties forming a government to replace him. But Yair Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid party which holds 17 seats, forged the agreements between the different parties that led to the end of Netanyahu’s grip on power. The arrangement places Bennett at the head of a coalition that includes right-wing, left-wing, and Arab parties, united largely by their desire to dethrone Netanyahu.

These disparate interests will challenge the coalition to find common ground on key issues, such as what policy to pursue with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank or how to manage the relationship with Gaza. The international community, including the United States, are pushing for the renewal of a peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians, but this government is ill-equipped to handle such negotiations, since two of the parties are vocally opposed to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Instead, Bennett will focus on domestic issues during his two years as prime minister, before he hands the reins to Lapid according to their coalition agreement. These will include the relationship between religion and state, the cost of living, and quality of life issues. Israel also has not passed a budget since March 2018; the newly anointed government has three months to enact one or the Knesset will dissolve and the country will once again head to elections by law.

CNN

Click to comment

Dear our estimated reader, what is your take about this topic?

Most Popular

To Top
Boss, don't STEAL our content! Send an email to [email protected] for permission. Is that too big to ask?