Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving leader, was ousted as prime minister on Sunday after the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, voted to form a new government made up of a coalition of opposition groups pledging to heal the caustic divisions caused by Netanyahu’s 12-year reign.
Netanyahu failed to form a government after March 23 elections – the fourth in two years – and failed to block the power-sharing deal between the groups, led by his former defense minister Naftali Bennett and Opposition Leader Yair Lapid.
Bennett and Lapid will each serve two years as Prime Minister in turn.
Bennett was sworn in immediately after the 60-59 vote. Lapid will replace him in 2023.
Netanyahu, 71, who has served as prime minister since 2009 and previously held the post from 1996 to 1999, vowed “we will be back.”
“If it is for us to be in opposition, we will do it with our backs straight until we overthrow this dangerous government and return to rule the country on our way,” he said. .
In a statement, President Biden congratulated Bennett and Lapid and said the United States will continue their long relationship with Israel.
“Israel has no better friend than the United States. The bond that unites our people is proof of our shared values and decades of close cooperation and as we continue to strengthen our partnership, the United States remains steadfast in its support for Israel’s security, ”Biden said. .
The White House later said Biden called Bennett and offered the new prime minister his “warm congratulations.”
Biden stressed his intention to “deepen cooperation between the United States and Israel on the many challenges and opportunities facing the region,” the White House said.
The leaders agreed that they and their teams would consult closely on all matters related to regional security, including Iran, the White House said and to advance “peace, security and prosperity.” for Israelis and Palestinians.
Speaking earlier on Sunday, Naftali thanked Netanyahu for his “long and fulfilling service on behalf of the State of Israel” and pledged to be prime minister for “all Israelis.”
Naftali said the new government would “end a terrible period of hatred among the people of Israel” in a speech that drew cries of “shame” and “liar” from supporters of Netanyahu.
Much of the Israeli opposition to Netanyahu was personal. Three of the eight parties in the new government, including Bennett’s Yamina, are led by former Netanyahu allies who share his hardline ideology but have had deep personal differences with him.
Bennett, 49, is a former chief of staff to Netanyahu whose small party is popular with religious Jews and settlers in the West Bank. As he approached the heated debate, he was repeatedly heckled and yelled at by Netanyahu supporters. Some were taken out of the bedroom.
Bennett, a practicing Jew, noted that the Jewish people had twice lost their homeland during Biblical times due to bitter infighting.
“This time, at the decisive moment, we took our responsibilities,” he said. “Continuing this way – no more elections, no more hate, no more vitriolic Facebook posts – just isn’t an option. Therefore, we stopped the train a moment before it hurtled into the abyss.
The new cabinet met briefly and Bennett recited a prayer for a fresh start and said it was time to mend the loopholes. “The citizens of Israel are all looking to us now, and the burden of proof is on us,” Bennett said.
The former millionaire high-tech entrepreneur faces a tough test in maintaining a heavy coalition of political right, left and center.
The coalition, including a small Islamist faction that goes down in history as the first Arab party to sit in a coalition, agrees little beyond its opposition to Netanyahu. They are likely to pursue a modest program that seeks to reduce tensions with the Palestinians and maintain good relations with the United States without launching major initiatives.
“We will move forward on what we agree on – and there are a lot of things we agree on, transportation, education, etc., and what separates us we do. let’s leave it out, ”Bennett said. He also promised a “new page” in relations with Israel’s Arab sector.
Arab citizens of Israel make up around 20 percent of the population but have suffered from discrimination, poverty and lack of opportunity. Netanyahu has often tried to portray Arab politicians as sympathizers of terrorism, although he also courted the same Arab party in a futile effort to stay in power after the March 23 elections.