Benjamin Netanyahu has lost his 12-year hold on power in Israel after the country’s parliament voted in a new coalition government.
A new “government of change” will be led by right-wing nationalist Naftali Bennett of the Yamina party.
He will lead an unprecedented coalition of parties which was approved with a razor-thin majority vote of 60-59.
Mr Bennett will be prime minister until September 2023 as part of a power-sharing deal.
He will hand power over to Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid, for a further two years.
Naftali Bennett, Israel’s new prime minister, came into office with Yesh Atid’s Mickey Levy who was voted in as the new speaker of the Knesset.
The new government passed with the support of 60 MKs, while 59 opposed it. Ra’am (United Arab List) MK Sa’eed Alharomi and five Joint List MKs absented themselves from the vote.
Earlier, Bennett defiantly presented his new government’s ministers and guidelines in an address at the Knesset plenum on Monday, while MKs who will be in the opposition heckled him constantly.
At the moment when Bennett started his speech introducing his government, Religious Zionist Party head Bezalel Smotrich and other MKs shouted “Shame” and waved posters of victims of terror. They were removed from the plenum.
“I am proud that I can sit in a government with people with very different views,” Bennett told his hecklers in the Knesset plenum, saying that they seemed to have a problem with losing power.
Bennett called on all sides of the political spectrum to display restraint. He complained that in recent years, Israel had stopped being managed as a country.
“The loud tone of the screams is the same as the failure to govern during your term in office,” Bennett snapped back at the Likud members.
Shas and United Torah Judaism MKs heckled Bennett, calling him a liar and a cheat. But Bennett promised to help the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) sector, even though its MKs would not be part of his government. He pledged to build a new haredi city for the sector’s growing population.
“This is not a day of mourning, Bennett said. “There is no disengagement here. There is no harm being caused to anyone. There is a change of government in a democracy. That’s it. And I assure it is a government that will work for the sake of all the people. We will do all we can so that no one should have to feel afraid. We are here in the name of good, and to work. And I say to those who intend to celebrate tonight, don’t dance on the pain of others. We are not enemies; we are one people.”
In the address, Bennett said his government would prevent the nuclearization of Iran and would not permit rocket fire on Isaeli citizens from the Gaza Strip.
Bennett thanked the administration of US President Joe Biden for its support during the war in Gaza and pledged to maintain bipartisan support in the US.
Bennett made a point of starting his address by praising outgoing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his hard work over the years for the State of Israel and his wife, Sara, for her dedication.
He said Netanyahu deserved credit for his outreach to Ra’am (United Arab List) head Mansour Abbas. The new government would take unprecedented steps to reach out to the Arab sector, Bennett vowed.
Lapid canceled his planned speech and merely said that the behavior of MKs in the outgoing government reminded him, his mother and all citizens of Israel why it was so important to replace them.
While Netanyahu spoke, MKs in the coalition being formed were completely silent, making a point of showing him respect. The only MKs who heckled him were from the Joint List, until Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz recalled the criminal charges against Netanyahu near the end of the address.
A crisis was avoided earlier, when Ra’am MK Saeed Alharomi said he would not oppose the new government, following a threat.
Ra’am head Mansour Abbas told reporters at the Knesset that “nothing” can interfere with the swearing in of the new government Sunday night, adding that “we will all vote in favor of the government.”
In return for his support of the new coalition, Alharomi demanded that a clause in the coalition agreement regarding illegal construction in the Negev be cancelled.
Netanyahu and Interior Minister Arye Deri pressured Alharomi and offered him assurances, including on the topic of the Kaminitz Law that addresses illegal construction, in an attempt to get him to vote against the government.
Netanyahu would remain in power if the prospective new coalition’s razor-thin majority were to lose the support of even one MK in a vote of confidence in the Knesset. If Alharomi abstains in the confidence vote, Joint List MKs could come to its rescue and vote in favor.
The Likud responded that it would be shameful if the government were formed through the backing of MKs who support terrorists and do not recognize Israel as a Jewish-democratic state.
In a separate vote, the MKs voted to replace Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin with Yesh Atid MK Mickey Levy.
Levy received the support of 67 MKs