Naftali Bennett, the right-wing Jewish nationalist and former tech millionaire, has been declared as the new prime minister of Israel. Sixty members of the Knesset voted in favour of the ideologically divided alliance and 59 against, with one abstention. Israel’s parliament was debating the formation of a new government that would end 12 years of rule by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The prospective government – an unprecedented coalition of parties – had a razor-thin majority of one seat. This brings to an end year of political paralysis in which three elections resulted in stalemate.
In a power-sharing deal, Mr Naftali Bennett, who heads the Yamina party, will hold office until September 2023, when he will hand over to Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid, for a further two years.
Mr Netanyahu – Israel’s longest-serving leader, who has dominated its political landscape for years – would remain head of the right-wing Likud party and become leader of the opposition. He has railed against the likely new government, calling it a “dangerous coalition of fraud and surrender” and has vowed to “overthrow it very quickly”.
Meanwhile, his trial on charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust – allegations he denies – continues. Mr Netanyahu has served a record-breaking five terms, first from 1996 to 1999, then continuously from 2009 to 2021. He called an election in April 2019 but failed to win enough support to form a new coalition government. Two more elections followed, each of which ended inconclusively.
The third election resulted in a government of national unity where Mr Netanyahu agreed to share power with the then-opposition leader Benny Gantz. But the arrangement collapsed in December, triggering a fourth election.