By Paul Ajayi
It is the end of an era in Israel as the Benjamin Netanyahu era is over in Israel. After 12 consecutive years in power, and another three before that, the country’s longest serving prime minister will no longer be its leader.
Israel’s parliament on Sunday narrowly approved a new coalition government, ending the historic 12-year rule of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and sending the polarizing leader into the opposition.
An unlikely coalition that came together to oust Netanyahu who survived a confidence vote in the Israeli parliament Sunday, passing 60-59, overcoming the final hurdle on its path to unseating him and taking a fragile hold on power.
Naftali Bennett, a former ally of Netanyahu turned rival, became prime minister after the 60-59 vote. Promising to try to heal a divided nation, Bennett will preside over a diverse and fragile coalition of eight parties with deep ideological differences.
But the 71-year-old Netanyahu made clear he has no intention of exiting the political stage. “If it is destined for us to be in the opposition, we will do it with our backs straight until we topple this dangerous government and return to lead the country,” he said.
The vote, capping a stormy parliamentary session, ended a two-year cycle of political paralysis in which the country held four deadlocked elections. Those votes focused largely on Netanyahu’s divisive rule and his fitness to remain in office while on trial for corruption charges.
To his supporters, Netanyahu is a global statesman uniquely capable of leading the country through its many security challenges.
President Joe Biden quickly congratulated the new government.
“I look forward to working with Prime Minister Bennett to strengthen all aspects of the close and enduring relationship between our two nations,” he said in a statement. He said his administration is fully committed to working with the new government “to advance security, stability, and peace for Israelis, Palestinians, and people throughout the broader region.”
Bennett’s office said he later spoke by phone with Biden, thanking him for his warm wishes and longstanding commitment to Israel’s security.
The leaders agreed to consult closely on all matters related to regional security, including Iran, the White House said, adding that Biden said his administration intends to work closely with the Israeli government on advancing peace, security and prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians.
Much of the Israeli opposition to Netanyahu was personal. Three of the eight parties in the new government, including Bennett’s Yamina, are headed by former Netanyahu allies who share his hard-line ideology but had deep personal disputes with him.
Bennett, 49, is a former chief of staff to Netanyahu whose small party is popular with religious Jews and West Bank settlers. As he addressed the raucous debate, he was repeatedly heckled and shouted down by Netanyahu’s supporters. Some were removed from the chamber.