Israel : Naftali Bennett Takes Command

The new Prime Minister replaces Benjamin Netanyahu who has been at the helm of the government for 12 years.

Power has changed hands in Israel with Naftali Bennett becoming the new Prime Minister following the approval of his coalition government by the Knesset (Parliament). The right-wing nationalist will lead an unprecedented coalition of parties that won a confidence vote by a razor-thin margin of just one seat. The new coalition was approved on Sunday, June 13, 2021 by 60 votes to 59, with one abstention. 

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His victory ends a 12-year grip on power by former Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, the country's longest-serving Prime Minister. Mr Bennett, leader of Yamina Party, will be Prime Minister until September 2023 as part of a power-sharing deal. He will then hand power over to Yair Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid Party, for a further two-year term. Mr Netanyahu, Israel's longest-serving PM, will remain head of the right-wing Likud Party and become leader of the opposition.

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After four elections in two years, Bennett's incoming government breaks a long political deadlock and ushers in the most diverse coalition Israel has ever seen, including the first Arab party to serve in the government. In his speech after swearing-in, the new Prime Minister promised to unite a nation frayed by years of political stalemate. He said his government would “work for the sake of all the people”, adding that the priorities would be reforms in education, health and cutting red tape.

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Naftali Bennett, Israel's new Prime Minister, is a former commando and self-made tech millionaire. The 49-year-old has long held ambitions to be Prime Minister, but his right-wing nationalist party, Yamina, won only a handful of seats in the last general election. Despite his party coming joint fifth, with seven MPs, Mr Bennett was propelled to the position of kingmaker, with his support vital if either of the two rival blocs competing for power were to be able to form a viable governing coalition. He was offered the premiership as a shared role by both Mr Netanyahu and the centrist opposition leader, Yair Lapid. At the end, Mr Bennett sided with Mr Lapid, despite their wide ideological differences.

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