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World Netanyahu's 12-year tenure ends as Israel's parliament approves new government

02:10  14 june  2021
02:10  14 june  2021 Source:   news.sky.com

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Israel's parliament has voted in favour of a new coalition government, ending Benjamin Netanyahu's 12-year consecutive tenure as premier.

Pro- and anti-Netanyahu protesters rallied in Jerusalem on potentially his last day as Israel's prime minister © Reuters Pro- and anti-Netanyahu protesters rallied in Jerusalem on potentially his last day as Israel's prime minister

The vote was 60-59, putting ultra-nationalist Naftali Bennett, a hi-tech millionaire and Orthodox Jew, as the new leader in a power-sharing deal with centrist leader and former TV host Yair Lapid, who will take over as PM in 2023 for two years.

Mr Netanyahu, 71, has vowed to lead his Likud Party back to power and "topple this dangerous government and return to lead the country in our way".

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Merav Michaeli, Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid, Naftali Bennett, Gideon Sa'ar, Nitzan Horowitz sitting at a table: The coalition comprises of eight groups, including the first faction to represent in government Israel's Arab minority © Reuters The coalition comprises of eight groups, including the first faction to represent in government Israel's Arab minority

He made clear he had no plans to relinquish leadership of the right-wing Likud party, which remains the largest party, so will become leader of the opposition.

Mr Netanyahu sat silently during the vote and after it was approved, he stood up to leave the chamber before turning around and shaking Mr Bennett's hand then sat briefly in the opposition leader's chair before departing.

US President Joe Biden congratulated Mr Bennett, 49, and Mr Lapid on their win during a phone call and said he is looking forward to working with the Israeli PM "to strengthen all aspects of the close and enduring relationship between our two nations".

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He added: "Israel has no better friend than the United States. The bond that unites our people is evidence of our shared values and decades of close cooperation and as we continue to strengthen our partnership, the United States remains unwavering in its support for Israel's security.

a man wearing a suit and tie: A special session of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, was convened to approve and swear-in a new coalition government © Reuters A special session of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, was convened to approve and swear-in a new coalition government

"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."

Boris Johnson gave his congratulations to the two new leaders and said it is an exciting time for the two countries to continue working together towards peace and prosperity.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab congratulated Mr Bennett and Mr Lapid and said the UK looked forward to continuing to work with Israel on securing peace in the region.

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The new administration, comprising an unprecedented coalition of small and mid-sized parties from across the spectrum, won the vote of confidence in the 120-seat Knesset.

Mr Bennet's party only holds six seats and the fragile patchwork of parties making up the coalition could collapse if any of its members decide to leave it.

The vote ended a record term of 12 consecutive years for Mr Netanyahu, as well as a turbulent two years of politics that saw four elections, an economically devastating coronavirus outbreak and an 11-day conflict in Gaza in May.

a large ship in the background: Drone footage shows the scale of destruction in Gaza City after 11 days of fighting in May © N/A Drone footage shows the scale of destruction in Gaza City after 11 days of fighting in May

The new government has pledged to heal a nation bitterly divided over the departure of Mr Netanyahu, the most dominant Israeli politician of his generation.

These divisions were evident as Mr Bennett, Mr Netanyahu's former chief of staff, was heckled by supporters of the now-ousted leader in a raucous parliamentary session.


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Addressing the Knesset ahead of the vote, Mr Bennett vowed to fight US efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal, a continuation of Mr Netanyahu's confrontational policy.

"Israel will not allow Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons," he said. "Israel will not be a party to the agreement and will continue to preserve full freedom of action."

Head of Oposition Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel Prime minister Naftali Bennett shake hands following the vote on the new coalition at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem June 13, 2021. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun © Thomson Reuters Head of Oposition Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel Prime minister Naftali Bennett shake hands following the vote on the new coalition at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem June 13, 2021. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

The ruling coalition looks unlike any before in the country's 73-year history. It contains parties with extreme ideological differences, including for the first time a party that represents Israel's 21% Arab minority, Raam.

The leaders are expected to steer clear of drastic moves on international issues such as policy on Palestine, focusing instead on domestic reforms.

But the coalition's fragile majority means that it could collapse even if just one of the eight factions splintered. The groups are united in little more than their opposition to Mr Netanyahu.

Mr Netanyahu had failed to form a government after an election on 23 March, the fourth in two years. His fate was effectively sealed on 2 June, when eight groups with the 61 seats required for a majority signed an agreement.

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His trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust - allegations he denies - continues.

Analysis: There is a sense of betrayal by some but many think Israel's new PM is the key to breaking the stalemate

By Mark Stone, Middle East correspondent, in Jerusalem

It is a particular quirk of Israeli politics - whether it be the ultimate form of consensus or the ultimate form of democratic dysfunction - that a man with a tiny support base can find himself as prime minister.

People celebrate after Israel's parliament voted in a new coalition government, ending Benjamin Netanyahu's 12-year hold on power, at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, Israel June 13, 2021. REUTERS/Corinna Kern © Thomson Reuters People celebrate after Israel's parliament voted in a new coalition government, ending Benjamin Netanyahu's 12-year hold on power, at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, Israel June 13, 2021. REUTERS/Corinna Kern

Naftali Bennett, 49, is Israel's 13th prime minister. A one-time special forces soldier turned tech entrepreneur of American descent.

He is a millionaire ultra-nationalist, the first Israeli PM to wear the kippah, a former defence minister, former chief of staff to the man he has now ousted and a proud religious hardliner.

But behind that image, is a man who is either pragmatic or simply inconsistent, a fact confirmed by his membership of five different political parties over the last decade and a half.

He made the top job not because the public wanted him there but because he was the only route through which an awkward left-centre-right coalition could form a government.

Among voters to the right there is a feeling of betrayal. How could an ultra-nationalist sign up to a coalition with liberals and Arabs?

Among voters to the left there is a sense a deal has been done with the devil.

Israel's new PM Bennett vows to unite nation

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People walk in front of a picture of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after Israel's parliament voted in a new coalition government, ending Netanyahu's 12-year hold on power, in Tel Aviv, Israel June 13, 2021. REUTERS/Corinna Kern © Thomson Reuters People walk in front of a picture of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after Israel's parliament voted in a new coalition government, ending Netanyahu's 12-year hold on power, in Tel Aviv, Israel June 13, 2021. REUTERS/Corinna Kern

The consensus though, from those who know Bennett and who have observed the compromise through which this coalition was formed, is that the new government actually represents an exciting and unprecedented moment for Israel.

If the coalition can hold, then the process of government can begin once again after 24 months of stagnation.

A budget will be passed. Cabinet positions have been filled with experts in their field - a break from Mr Netanyahu's divide-and-rule tactics.

It is true that on the tricky status quo issues - like the Palestinian conflict - vetos will prevent big breakthroughs.

But the coalition has proved, so far, that consensus between such polarised parties is possible.

Each party leader has an interest in making it work, at least for a few years. And as long as they have Mr Netanyahu in opposition to rally against, it may just last.

Who Is Naftali Bennett? Benjamin Netanyahu Replacement Sees Israel Shift Further Right .
Israel's new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett once described himself as being "more right-wing" than his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu.Bennett, a 49-year-old adherent to Orthodox Judaism, is widely perceived as a religious ultra-nationalist politician. He has acknowledged being "more right-wing" than Netanyahu, whose coalition governments saw Bennett hold multiple ministerial roles. Bennett has served as minister of economy and religious services, diaspora affairs, education, and defense. When Netanyahu was opposition leader from 2006 until 2008, Bennett worked as his chief of staff.

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