Israel swore an oath to join the new alliance, ending Netanyahu’s long-term rule
Jerusalem-On Sunday, the Knesset narrowly adopted a new coalition government, ending Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year historic rule and sending the polarized leader into the opposition .
Naftali Bennett, a former ally of Netanyahu, became prime minister after voting 60 to 59. Bennett promised to try to heal a divided country. He will preside over a diverse and fragile coalition consisting of eight parties with profound ideological differences.
But the 71-year-old Netanyahu made it clear that he has no intention of withdrawing from the political arena. He said: “If we are destined to become the opposition, we will come forward until we overthrow this dangerous government and re-lead the country.”
The vote ended the stormy parliamentary meeting and ended the two-year cycle of political paralysis in which the country held four deadlocked elections. These votes focused on Netanyahu’s divisive rule and his suitability to stay on trial for corruption charges.
For his supporters, Netanyahu is a global politician with the unique ability to lead the country in responding to numerous security challenges.
But for his critics, he has become a polarized and authoritarian leader, and he has used the strategy of divide and rule to exacerbate many rifts in Israeli society. These include tensions between Jews and Arabs, and between his religious and nationalist foundations and his more secular and moderate opponents of the Jewish majority.
Outside the Knesset, when the new government was passed, hundreds of protesters who watched the vote on the big screen burst into applause. Thousands of people celebrated in Rabin Square in the center of Tel Aviv, many of them waving Israeli flags.
President Joe Biden quickly congratulated the new government.
“I look forward to working with Prime Minister Bennett to strengthen all aspects of the close and lasting relationship between our two countries,” he said in a statement issued after the meeting of the Group of Seven in England. He said that his government is fully committed to cooperating with the new government “to promote the security, stability and peace of Israelis, Palestinians and the people of the entire region.”
Bennett’s office said that he later spoke with Biden on the phone and thanked the US leader for his warm blessings and his long-term commitment to Israel’s security. Bennett’s office added that in their conversation, they emphasized their alliance and strengthened ties.
Most of the opposition to Netanyahu is personal. Three of the eight parties of the new government, including Bennett’s Armina, are led by former Netanyahu allies. They share the same hardline ideology as Netanyahu, but share the same Deep personal disputes.
Bennett, 49, was Netanyahu’s former chief of staff. Netanyahu’s small party is popular with religious Jews and West Bank settlers. When he spoke in a boisterous debate, Netanyahu’s supporters repeatedly questioned and yelled at him. Some were moved out of the room.
Bennett was a careful Jew. He pointed out that the ancient Jews lost their homes twice during the biblical era due to infighting.
“This time, at the decisive moment, we took responsibility,” he said. “Continuing in this way-more elections, more hatred, more acrimonious posts on Facebook-is not an option. So we stopped just before the train rushed into the abyss.”
The new cabinet met briefly, and Bennett prayed for the new beginning and said it was time to mend the rift. “Israeli citizens are paying attention to us now, and the burden of proof is on us,” he said.
Bennett, a former high-tech entrepreneur and millionaire, faces a severe test of maintaining a clumsy coalition of political right, left and center parties.
The coalition, including a small Islamic faction that is making history, became the first Arab party to join the coalition, and there was little agreement other than against Netanyahu. They are likely to pursue a moderate agenda, seeking to reduce tensions with the Palestinians and maintain good relations with the United States without launching any major initiatives.
Bennett said: “We will continue to advance what we agreed-we have a lot of consensus, including transportation, education, etc., and we will put aside the differences between us.” He also promised to deal with the relationship with the Israeli Arab sector. Turn to “a new page”.
Arab citizens of Israel make up about 20% of the total population, but they suffer from discrimination, poverty and lack of opportunity. Netanyahu often tried to portray Arab politicians as sympathizers of terrorism, although he also wooed the same Arab party after the March 23 elections, but failed to continue to hold power.
Like Netanyahu, Bennett, who opposed the establishment of a Palestinian state, hardly mentioned the Palestinians except for threats to respond hard to violence. Like Netanyahu, he also vowed to oppose US-led efforts to restore the international nuclear agreement with Iran.
“Israel will not allow Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons,” he said. “Israel is not a party to the agreement and will maintain full freedom of movement.”
But he also thanked Biden for his support to Israel. He promised to take a different approach from Netanyahu, who alienated most members of the Democratic Party through his hostile relationship with then President Barack Obama and his close relationship with former President Donald Trump.
Bennett said: “My government will work hard to deepen and cultivate the relationship with friends from both parties-bipartisan cooperation.” “If there is a dispute, we will deal with it with basic trust and mutual respect.”
Bennett’s speech was conciliatory, while Netanyahu’s was confrontational. He first boasted about his achievements, including diplomatic treaties with four Arab countries and successful coronavirus vaccination campaigns, and then belittled those who succeeded him.
He accused Bennett of abandoning Israel’s right-wing voters and joining the weak “left” as prime minister. He said Bennett did not have the courage to confront Iran or the pressure of the United States to make concessions to the Palestinians.
He said: “I will lead you in a daily struggle against this evil and dangerous left-wing government to overthrow it.” “God bless it, it will happen sooner than you think.”
Among the opposition, Netanyahu is still the leader of the largest party in the parliament. The new coalition is a patchwork of small and medium-sized parties, and if any of its members decides to withdraw, these parties may collapse. For example, Bennett’s party has only 6 seats in a 120-seat parliament.
Yohanan Plesner, director of the Israel Democracy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, said the new government may be more stable than it seems.
Everyone in the alliance wants to prove that they can do it. To do this, they need “time and accomplishment,” he said. Nonetheless, Netanyahu “will continue to be overshadowed,” Presner said.
The driving force behind the alliance is the political centrist Yair Lapid. If the government lasts that long, he will become prime minister within two years after reaching a rotation agreement with Bennett.
Rapid canceled the scheduled speech, saying he was ashamed that his 86-year-old mother had to witness the noisy behavior of his opponent.
“I hope she is proud of the democratic process in Israel. On the contrary, she and every Israeli citizen are ashamed of you and clearly remember why it is time to replace you,” he said.
Netanyahu’s position in Israel’s history is solid. He served as prime minister for a total of 15 years—more than anyone else, including the country’s founding father David Ben-Gurion.
But his reputation as a political magician has faded—especially since he was prosecuted for fraud, breach of trust, and bribery in 2019.
He rejected the call to step down, instead lashing out at the media, judicial and law enforcement agencies, and even accused his political opponents of planning an attempted coup. Last year, protesters began holding weekly rallies across the country, calling on him to resign.
Netanyahu is still popular among the hardline nationalists who dominate Israeli politics, but he may soon face leadership challenges from within his party. A less polarized Likud leader is likely to form the right-wing coalition that Netanyahu hopes to form.