Netanyahu ousted following Knesset vote

  • Netanyahu ousted following Knesset vote

Netanyahu ousted following Knesset vote

For the first time in more than a decade, Israel has welcomed a new prime minister.

"Thank you Benjamin Netanyahu for your lengthy and achievement-filled service on behalf of the State of Israel", Bennett said, pledging to be prime minister for "all Israelis".

During the debate in the Knesset (parliament), a defiant Mr Netanyahu promised: "We'll be back".

Bennett nevertheless thanked President Joe Biden and the US for its decades of support for Israel. His supporters are angered by what they see as Israel turning its back on a leader dedicated to its security and a bulwark against global pressure for any steps that could lead to a Palestinian state, even as he clinched diplomatic deals with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.

Thanking Biden for his "years of commitment to Israel's security", and for "standing by Israel" during fighting with Hamas militants in Gaza last month, Bennett said his government would pursue good relations with U.S. Democrats and Republicans.

His government, including for the first time a party that represents Israel's 21% Arab minority, plans largely to avoid sweeping moves on hot-button worldwide issues such as policy toward the Palestinians, and to focus on domestic reforms.

Netanyahu's bombastic remarks as he has seen his grip on power slip have drawn parallels at home and overseas to former United States president Donald Trump, who described his election loss a year ago as the result of a rigged vote. Beyond holding the defence portfolio, Bennett served as Netanyahu's economy minister and education minister. He expects the incoming opposition leader to exploit events and propose legislation that right-wing coalition members would like to support but can't - all in order to embarrass and undermine them.

Among his loyal supporters - he's seen as a strong defender of Israel who made the country an economic success and oversaw an effective battle against the coronavirus.

Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, remains the head of the largest party in parliament and is expected to vigorously oppose the new government.

In his address to parliament, a combative Netanyahu said: "If we are destined to go into the opposition, we will do so with our heads held high until we can topple it".

If confirmed, the unlikely alliance of right-wing, left-wing, centrist and Islamist parties will remove Netanyahu from power after 12 consecutive years, to be replaced by Bennett, and, two years later, Lapid. Although his party held more seats in the Knesset, he agreed to let Naftali Bennett serve the first two years.

Bennett has drawn anger from within the right-wing camp for breaking a campaign pledge by joining forces with Lapid - and an allegation from Netanyahu that he defrauded the electorate.

The agreement involving eight factions with the 61 seats required for a majority was signed on 2 June, just half an hour before a deadline was due to expire, effectively sealing Mr Netanyahu's fate.

It will also be the first time that the government will include a party that represents the 21% Arab minority.

Netanyahu took to Twitter in the days leading up to Sunday's vote in hopes of eroding trust in his opposition.

If the coalition is approved, Naftali Bennett, a former ally turned rival of Netanyahu, would become prime minister over a disparate coalition of parties from the political right, left and center.

Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, said the new government will likely be more stable than it appears.