Naftali Bennett was sworn in as the new prime minister of Israel on Sunday after an eight-party coalition came together to oust Benjamin Netanyahu following his 12-year rule in the country, PTI reported.
Bennett, a 49-year-old leader of the right-wing Yamina party, took oath of office after the Israeli Parliament, Knesset, elected him as the 13th prime minister of the country with a razor-thin majority of 60-59 in the 120-member House. One of the lawmakers abstained from voting.
Under a rotational agreement, Bennett will serve as prime minister for two years, after which he will be replaced by centrist leader Yair Lapid, the chief architect of the new government, reported Al Jazeera. The Bennett-led alliance comes across as an unnatural coalition of left-wing, centrist and right-wing parties, as well as a party that represents Palestinian citizens of Israel. In fact, the new Prime Minister Bennett’s Yamina Party has only six members in the House.
Earlier, Bennett presented his new government’s ministers in a speech constantly interrupted by supporters of 71-year-old Netanyahu.
“At the decisive moment we took responsibility,” he said, according to PTI. “The alternative to this government was more elections, more hate, which would have broken up the country. “It is time for responsible leaders from different parts of the nation to stop this madness.”
Netanyahu’s supporters constantly heckled him during the speech, calling him a “criminal” and “liar”. The former prime minister, in his speech said, “If we are destined to go into Opposition, we will do so with our heads held high, until we can topple it.”
Bennett once served as Netanyahu’s chief of staff and had a rocky relationship with him as defence minister. Although they are both right-wingers, Bennett spurned Netanyahu’s call after the March 23 election to join him, Reuters reported.
The formation of the new government ended the political impasse in the country that saw four elections in less than two years leading to inconclusive results. But opinion polls suggest that a majority of the Israelis do not look too hopeful regarding the longevity of the coalition of eight parties who do not see eye-to-eye on most of the critical issues facing the country, PTI reported.
However, analysts also feel that the two factors likely to prolong or determine the tenure of the new fragile coalition are the fear of Netanyahu’s return and a possible political demise of some of the right-wing factions that have gone against the wishes of their voting constituency to join hands.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Bennett on taking over from Netanyahu.
“Excellency Naftali Bennett, congratulations on becoming the prime minister of Israel,” Modi tweeted. “As we celebrate 30 years of the upgradation of diplomatic relations next year, I look forward to meeting you and deepening the strategic partnership between our two countries.”
In another tweet, Modi also thanked Netanyahu for his “leadership and personal attention to India-Israel strategic partnership”.
United States President Joe Biden also spoke to Bennett and offered him “warm congratulations”, the White House said in a statement. Among other matters, the statement mentioned that the Biden administration intends to work closely with the Bennett government “on efforts to advance peace, security, and prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians”.