Israeli Parliament Elects Naftali Bennett as PM, Ending Netanyahu’s Long Reign
A coalition of Israeli parties ousted Benjamin Netanyahu, the country’s longest-serving prime minister, on Sunday, forming a new government in a seismic shift in the country’s turbulent politics.
Naftali Bennett, a right-wing Jewish nationalist and former tech millionaire, was set to take over as leader of the eight-party coalition, which was united only by their contempt for Bibi, Israel’s hawkish right-wing leader.
Netanyahu, 71, promised shortly before his defeat, “if it’s our fate to be in the opposition, we’ll do so with our heads high before we take down this bad government and return to lead the country our way,” in his trademark combative tone.
Netanyahu has long been the powerful, and increasingly divisive, figure in Israeli politics, dubbed “King Bibi” by his right-wing supporters and denounced as the “crime minister” by his critics.
However, after weeks of intense political intrigue, his government was defeated by a razor-thin majority of 60 to 59 in the 120-seat Knesset legislature on Sunday.
Netanyahu’s critics erupted in cheers and launched into an evening of joyous celebrations in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, having gathered in recent days with “Bye bye Bibi” placards.
Tal Surkis, 19, one of the demonstrators, admitted to having “mixed feelings” about the incoming reform alliance, but added that “it’s something Israel needs.”
Bennett, 49, vowed the new government, a coalition of politically diverse parties, would “represent all of Israel” in a Knesset speech before the vote.
He said that the country had been plunged “into a maelstrom of hate and in-fighting” after four inconclusive elections in less than two years.
“The time has come for various politicians, from all parts of the society, to stop this madness,” he said, prompting right-wing critics to yell “liar” and “terrorist.”
Reports with AFP