Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
ABIR SULTAN | AFP | Getty Images
The Israeli parliament, the Knesset, met on Sunday to vote on its new government – and a new prime minister for the first time in 12 years.
The vote, which is supposed to usher in the leadership of a very diverse and cobbled together coalition of right, left, centrist and Islamist parties, will oust Israel’s longest-serving leader Benjamin Netanyahu. It also saves Israel the prospect of a fifth election in less than two years.
Now, after fighting back and trying several policy options to stay in power, Netanyahu will step aside and Israeli tech millionaire and lawmaker Naftali Bennett, whom many consider more right-wing predecessor, will take over as prime minister .
The Knesset vote on Sunday was overshadowed by chaos and insults as some right-wing lawmakers, including those of Netanyahu’s Likud party, hurled insults against Bennett, calling him a traitor to alliance with left and Arab parties. At least four politicians were kicked out of the meeting by spokesman Yariv Levin.
Bennett, a former Netanyahu adviser, continued his pre-vote speech amid the heckling heckling, praising Netanyahu as “working hard and faithfully for the State of Israel”.
‘We’ll be back soon’
The 71-year-old right-wing leader is a lightning rod in its twelfth year and has long been a dividing line in Israeli society. An Israeli expert told CNBC that the country’s last elections in March – the fourth in less than two years due to the complex and polarized nature of Israeli politics – really came down to whether the country wanted “Bibi or no Bibi”. where the outgoing Prime was used became the minister’s popular nickname.
Speaking to the Knesset in English, Netanyahu said: “We’ll be back soon.”
“If we have to be in the opposition, we will keep this up – until we overthrow this dangerous government and return to run the state,” he said in a passionate address, insisting that he speak for the millions of Israelis who voted for him.
A combination of file photos shows Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett giving a speech in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018, and Yesh Atid Party leader Yair Lapid giving a speech in Tel Aviv, Israel, on March 24, 2021.
Ammar Awad; Amir Cohen | Reuters
He also slammed a bill proposed by the new government that would limit a prime minister’s term to eight years, four years less than his term in office.
Netanyahu himself faces several allegations of corruption, which he denies. He had been looking for ways to avoid prosecution, which would have been a lot easier if he had stayed in power. Meanwhile, he can still remain the leader of the Likud party.
The outgoing prime minister attracted international criticism and attention for his persistent military action against Gaza in May, in which Israeli air strikes killed more than 250 Palestinians, including 66 children, in response to rocket volleys by Hamas that killed Israel during course 12 of the fighting .
The new coalition to take power is led by centrist lawmaker Yair Lapid, a former television presenter and former finance minister and leader of the Yesh Atid party, and his unlikely government partner, Naftali Bennett, who leads the minority Yamina party.
It is very unusual for a minority party leader to become prime minister, but that was what it took Bennett to join Lapid’s coalition – and his alliance with Lapid was the only way the coalition could get enough Knesset seats to hold one To have majority.
So the deal for Lapid and Bennett is based on the agreement that Bennett will become Prime Minister by 2023, with centrist Lapid as Secretary of State. At that point, Lapid will take over as Prime Minister.
But there are serious challenges ahead. The fragile coalition between Lapid and Bennett and the parties whose support they had to win to achieve the magic number of a majority of 61 seats in the Knesset is a risk to itself, analysts say. The only thing that seems to hold them together is a shared desire to take Netanyahu off the bench. But because of the incredibly narrow majority of 61 seats in the 120-member parliament, it would only take one move for the government to collapse.
And in view of the sometimes extreme differences of opinion between the parties involved, especially between Israel’s right-wing and Islamist politicians, the latter of whom are now part of a government coalition for the first time in Israeli history, this risk of collapse and collapse remains a constant threat.