Israel’s parliament has narrowly voted in favour of a new coalition government, ending Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s historic 12-year rule.
Naftali Bennett, a former ally of Netanyahu turned bitter rival, has become prime minister, presiding over a diverse and fragile coalition comprised of eight parties with deep ideological differences. Netanyahu remains head of the Likud party and will hold the post of opposition leader.
According to report, President Biden welcomed the new government, saying he hopes to work with Prime Minister Bennett to strengthen all aspects of the close and enduring relationship between the two nations.
Sunday’s vote, passed by a 60-59 margin, ended a two-year cycle of political paralysis in which the country held four elections.
The eight parties in the coalition, including a small Arab faction that is making history by sitting in the ruling coalition, are united in their opposition to Netanyahu and new elections but agree on little else. They are likely to pursue a modest agenda that seeks to reduce tensions with the Palestinians and maintain good relations with the U.S. without launching any major initiatives.
Prime Minister Bennett’s acceptance speech mostly dwelled on domestic issues, but he expressed opposition to U.S. efforts to revive Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers.
He said that Israel will not allow Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons, vowing to maintain Netanyahu’s confrontational policy.
Netanyahu, speaking after him, vowed to return to power. He predicted the incoming government would be weak on Iran and give in to U.S. demands to make concessions to the Palestinians.
The new government is promising a return to normalcy after a tumultuous two years that saw four elections, an 11-day Gaza war last month and a coronavirus outbreak that devastated the economy before it was largely brought under control by a successful vaccination campaign.