by H. Haverstock, The Chicago Times

June 13, 2021

JERUSALEM — Israel’s parliament narrowly approved a new government on Sunday, with Naftali Bennett replacing Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister, ending Netanyahu’s record 12-year tenure.

Bennett, who represents the Yamina party, is leading a coalition with Yair Lapid, who represents the Yesh Atid party.  According to the Jerusalem Post, the two men agreed to split the term as prime minister, with Lapid expected to take over in two years.

According to the Jerusalem Post’s Lahav Harkov, Bennett said in Hebrew before the Knesset on Sunday, “Thank you Netanyahu for a long service with many achievements for the State of Israel, for strengthening Israel’s diplomatic status and security,”

Netanyahu’s supporters shouted frequently during Bennett’s speech, while the outgoing prime minister sat silently in the audience.

Within the Knesset, Netanyahu’s Likud party will lead the opposition.  He is also facing a corruption trial in which he is accused of fraud, breach of trust, and taking bribes.  He responded to Bennett’s speech with his own, in which he lauded major accomplishments during his presidency.  During his presidency, the United States relocated its embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing the city as Israel’s capital.

Netanyahu has also reached agreements with a number of Arab countries.

The change in Israeli leadership does not appear to have resulted in a shift in the country’s foreign policy.  Bennett expressed gratitude to President Biden for his support during Israel’s recent conflict with Hamas in Gaza, and stated that his government intends to build relationships with members of both major American parties.

Bennett, on the other hand, echoed the outgoing prime minister’s opposition to the international nuclear deal with Iran being restored.  Returning to the deal would be a mistake, he said, and Israel would not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.

According to the Post, Bennett and Lapid were able to secure enough support to form a government after Lapid struck a deal with the Arab party Ra’am.  Later Sunday, the new government is expected to hold its first official meeting.