Israeli lawmakers on Sunday passed a vote of confidence for a coalition government, ending Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year hold on power.
The coalition is comprised of bitter ideological rivals, united by their will to oust Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving leader.
They won a razor-thin majority of 60 to 59 in the 120-seat chamber.
Naftali Bennettwas sworn in on Sunday, replacing his former ally Netanyahu as prime minister.
After two years in the top post, Bennett is supposed to give way to Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid Party under a rotating plan for the premiership.
Israeli Knesset elected Mickey Levy of the Yesh Atid Party — a coalition member — to house speaker. He is to succeed the current speaker, Yariv Levin, of Netanyahu’s Likud party.
Emotions ran high during the Knesset special session on Sunday with both Bennett and Netanyahu speaking through raucous boos from some lawmakers.
Naftali Bennett promised that the coalition “represents all of Israel.”
He said that the coalition government would open a new chapter in the relationship between the state and Israel’s Arab citizens, reported Israeli media outlet Haaretz.
He thanked Netanyahu for the role he played in this process.
Right wing politician Betzalel Smotrich was one of the politicians who let emotions get the best of him during the special session
He also vowed that the motley coalition of ideological rivals would oppose a renewed deal on Iran’s nuclear program, saying: “Israel won’t let Iran have nuclear weapons.”
Meanwhile, Netanyahu, the leader of right-wing Likud Party during his speech vowed “the Israeli opposition will have a strong and clear voice” if he is ousted from power in a vote set to install a new government.
“If it’s our destiny to be in the opposition, we’ll do so with our heads high until we take down this bad government, and return to lead the country our way,” Netanyahu added.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, leader of the far-right Otzma Yehudit Party, also let emotions get the better of him, during the heated Knesset special session
The coalition, which has 61 of the 120 Knesset seats, brings together eight disparate parties from across the political spectrum, ranging from the right-wing nationalist Yamina party to Arab lawmakers.
The alliance, which includes three right-wing, two centrist and two left-wing parties, along with an Arab Islamic conservative party, was cobbled together by centrist politician Yair Lapid.
All coalition agreements have been signed and were submitted to the Knesset on Friday.
Benjamin Netanyahu and Naftali Bennett delivered speeches in the Knesset on Sunday
Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett said the moment brought “to an end two and a half years of political crisis.”
The head of the Islamist Raam party in Israel’s parliament Mansour Abbas said Sunday that his party was making great sacrifices for the sake of his constituents, and will try “to advance a dialog that will bring about better, new, principled relations for all citizens of the state: Jews and Arabs.”
“I congratulate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and all the members of the new Israeli cabinet,” US President Joe Biden said in a statement.
“I look forward to working with Prime Minister Bennett to strengthen all aspects of the close and enduring relationship between our two nations. Israel has no better friend than the United States,” Biden added.
Israelis headed to Rabin Square in Tel Aviv to celebrate the end of Netanyahu’s 12-year tenure
The new Israeli prime minister replied, saying “Thank you Mr. President! I look forward to working with you to strengthen the ties between our two nations.”
“Germany and Israel are connected by a unique friendship that we want to strengthen further. With this in mind, I look forward to working closely with you,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a message addressed to Bennett and shared by her spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer on Twitter.
Fawzi Barhoum, spokesperson for the Palestinian Gaza-based Hamas militant group, said that the government change will not alter how Hamas views Israel.
Outside the Knesset, hundreds of people watching the vote on a large screen erupted into applause when the new government was approved.
Delighted coalition supporters poured into the center of Israel’s coastal city of Tel Aviv Sunday to celebrate.
In Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, Netanyahu’s opponents broke out in cheers and launched into an evening of joyous celebrations, having rallied in recent days with “Bye bye Bibi” placards, using a shortened name that Netanyahu commonly was referred to as.
People celebrated in Tel Aviv Israel’s parliament voted in a new coalition government
kmm/aw (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)