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Israel votes in new government amid parliament chaos, ending Netanyahu’s 12-year rule

  • June 16, 2021

Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset, approved its new government on Sunday — and a new prime minister for the first time in 12 years — in a razor-thin 60-59 vote.

The vote, ringing in the leadership of a very diverse and cobbled-together coalition of right-wing, left-wing, centrist and Islamist parties, ousted Israel’s longest-serving leader Benjamin Netanyahu. It also spared Israel from the prospect of a fifth election in less than two years. 

Now, after putting up a fight and trying several political options to remain in power, Netanyahu will move aside and Israeli tech millionaire and lawmaker Naftali Bennett, who many describe as more right-wing than his predecessor, will take the premiership. 

Sunday’s Knesset vote was marred by chaos and jeering, as some right-wing lawmakers including those from Netanyahu’s Likud party hurled insults at Bennett, calling him a “traitor” and a “liar” for allying with leftist and Arab parties. At least four politicians were kicked out of the session by the speaker, Yariv Levin.

Bennett, formerly an aide to Netanyahu, continued his pre-vote speech amid the heckling, praising Netanyahu as having “worked hard and faithfully for the state of Israel.” But he also pressed on the need for new leadership.

“We stopped the train before the abyss,” Mr. Bennett said. “The time has come for different leaders, from all parts of the people, to stop, to stop this madness.”

In a statement, U.S. President Joe Biden congratulated Bennett and other leaders of the new government and cabinet.

“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.  The bond that unites our people is evidence of our shared values and decades of close cooperation and as we continue to strengthen our partnership, the United States remains unwavering in its support for Israel’s security.”

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