Naftali Bennett, leader of the hardline Yamina party, managed to stitch together an unlikely coalition and win the confidence vote on the floor of the Knesset to become Israel’s next Prime Minister, putting an end to Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year run.
Celebrations broke out in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square as Bennett was sworn in. People cheered with confetti and foam showers, flag waving and dancing!
On May 30, Bennett had announced that he was open to forming a coalition government with centrist leader Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party. They had until June 2 to gather enough support from other to stake their claim to form a new government. After they presented their claim, the new coalition needed to be ratified by the Israeli Parliament. On Sunday, the coalition that also includes right-wing, centrist and even Arab parties, managed to win the confidence vote by a slim margin of 61 to 59.
Bennett will be Prime Minister for two years till August 2023, followed by Lapid for the next two years. Lapid will be Foreign Minister till then. Interestingly, Yamina has seven seats in the 120 member Knesset, but one member reportedly refused to join the coalition. Meanwhile Yesh Atid has 17 seats. Other parties in the eight-party coalition include Blue and White party (8), Yisrael Beiteinu (7), Labour party (7), New Hope (6), Meretz (6) and Raam (4). Thus, none of them have 30 seats like Netanyahu’s Likud party.
Interestingly, Bennett appeared to abandon his usual hardline stance and highlighted the diverse voices in his new coalition government, as he made his speech following the victory in the Knesset. CNN quoted Bennet as saying, “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. I am proud of the ability to sit together with people with very different views from my own.”
Meanwhile, Netanyahu said this as a parting shot, “I ask you: do not let your spirit fall. We’ll be back – and faster than you think.”
US President Joe Biden was one of the first to congratulate Bennett. In a statement released by the White House, President Biden said, “On behalf of the American people, I congratulate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and all the members of the new Israeli cabinet. I look forward to working with Prime Minister Bennett to strengthen all aspects of the close and enduring relationship between our two nations.” On the contentious subject of Palestine, the statement added, “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.”
Congratulating Bennett, British Prime Minister Boris John said, “As we emerge from COVID-19, this is an exciting time for the UK and Israel to continue working together to advance peace and prosperity for all.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “On behalf of the Government of Canada, I congratulate Prime Minister Bennett and Alternate Prime Minister Lapid on the formation of a new Israeli government,” adding, “I look forward to working with Prime Minister Bennett and Alternate Prime Minister Lapid to keep our people safe and supported as we recover from the global COVID-19 pandemic, and help both of our countries build back better.” On the subject of Palestine Trudeau said, “Canada remains steadfast in its commitment to a two-state solution, with Israelis and Palestinians living in peace, security, and dignity – without fear and with their human rights respected.”
Other world leaders too congratulated Bennett:
*Feature Image: Public Domain image via Wikimedia Commons.