Netanyahu Loses Office, Making Way for Naftali Bennett
Jun 14 2021
Sunday's vote, passed by a 60-59 margin, ended a two-year cycle of political paralysis in which the country held four elections.
Lapid, 57, is to serve as foreign minister for the next two years before taking over from Bennett.
But the 71-year-old Mr Netanyahu made clear he has no intention of exiting the political stage. 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. Serving in his first term as prime minister in the 1990s and since 2009 winning four more terms in succession, he has been a polarising figure, both overseas and at home.
"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".
Netanyahu, who is battling corruption charges in a trial he dismisses as a conspiracy, has been the dominant Israeli politician of his generation, having also served a previous three-year term in the 1990s.
Being ousted from the top job leaves Netanyahu more exposed to his legal troubles, denying him the chance to push through legislation that could give him immunity.
It spans the political spectrum, with three right-wing, two centrist and two left-wing parties, and even an Arab Islamic conservative party.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday congratulated Bennett in comments tweeted by her spokeswoman: "Germany and Israel are connected by a unique friendship that we want to strengthen further".
Biden added that he was "fully committed to working with the new Israeli government to advance security, stability, and peace for Israelis, Palestinians, and people throughout the broader region".
"We look forward to strengthening all aspects of the U.S. -Israel partnership and working together for a more secure and prosperous future". No one was able to cobble together a Knesset majority after the first two contests, and the third produced an unwieldy right-center coalition that collapsed after months in recriminations. He accused Bennett of being weak and untrustworthy (noting that he'd broken a campaign pledge by forming a government with Lapid), and said his protege-turned-rival would refuse to stand up to Biden on Iran.
"When PM Netanyahu speaks about "election fraud" he isn't referring to the vote counting process in Israel in which he has complete confidence".
Sunday's Knesset approval also came amid heightened tensions with the Palestinians.
The "March of the Flags" is now slated for Tuesday, and the agitation surrounding it could represent a key initial test for a new coalition government.
With little to no prospect of progress toward resolving the decades-long conflict with Israel, many Palestinians will be unmoved by the change of administration, predicting that Bennett will pursue the same right-wing agenda as Netanyahu.
"The form the Israeli government takes doesn't change the nature of our relationship", said spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum.