EA wafer-thin majority of the members of the Israeli parliament voted for the new government on Sunday. After stormy debates, 60 of 120 Knesset members voted for the eight-party alliance led by Naftali Bennett from the ultra-right Jamina and Jair Lapid from the Future Party. 59 voted against, there was one abstention. This means the temporary end of the era of the right-wing conservative long-term Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
As part of a rotation agreement, Naftali Bennett (49) is to become prime minister and after two years he will be replaced by Jair Lapid (57) of the moderate future party. The new government will have 27 ministers. Mickey Levy from the Future Party was elected President of Parliament.
Bennett’s opening speech was severely disrupted by repeated angry heckling from members of the Netanyahu camp. Bennnett spoke out against a return to the international nuclear deal with Iran. He warned the Islamist Hamas, which ruled the Gaza Strip, of an “iron wall” should it again attack targets in Israel. Under his leadership, Israel would work for rapprochement with other Arab states. Meanwhile, Hamas announced a continuation of the armed struggle against Israel.
The new Israeli government consists of eight parties from the right to the left, including the conservative Islamist Raam. It is the first time in Israel’s history that an Arab party has become part of the government. Bennett’s Jamina party, on the other hand, is considered to be friendly to settlers, which could make future cooperation more difficult. Bennett is also the first Israeli head of government to belong to the national religious camp wearing a kippah.
Twelve years of Netanyahu ended for the time being
For the first time in twelve years, a government without Netanyahu has now been formed in Israel. His Likud party is the largest group in parliament, but remains outside.
At the end of 2018, Netanyahu’s right-wing religious coalition collapsed in the dispute over a law that should gradually oblige more strictly religious men to do military service. Four parliamentary elections always ended with a stalemate. Since then it has not been possible to adopt a new budget. Ex-Finance Minister Lapid from the Future Party had finally received the contract to form a government after Netanyahu had failed. Lapid let Bennett precede the Prime Minister’s office to make the coalition possible.
The 71-year-old Netanyahu had tried to the last to prevent the formation of the government of his political opponents. He accused Bennett of cheating on his voters. Netanyahu said at the meeting: “If we have to go into the opposition, we will – until we overthrow this dangerous government.” The 71-year-old stressed that he had returned from the opposition in the past. “We will be back soon”, he said in English, also in the direction of Tehran.
Netanyahu is considered one of the sharpest critics of the nuclear deal. He was Prime Minister from 1996 to 1999, and has been Head of Government since 2009. Since the founding of Israel in 1948, no one has ruled longer than Netanyahu. In the course of his term of office he fell out deeply with many politicians and lost their trust. Many top politicians from Netanyahu’s right-wing camp therefore refused to support him. Netanyahu is also criticized because a corruption process is running against him. If the new government survives, it could end the ongoing political crisis Israel has been in for two and a half years.