Naftali Bennett was sworn in as Israel’s new prime minister on Sunday, after winning a confidence vote with the narrowest of margins, just 60 votes to 59. His victory ends a 12-year regime of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the country’s longest-serving leader and ending a political crisis in the country that sparked four elections in two years.
Mr Bennett, leader of Yamina party, will be prime minister until September 2023 as part of a power-sharing deal. He will then hand power over to Yair Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid, for a further two years. Mr Netanyahu – Israel’s longest-serving prime minister – will remain head of the right-wing Likud party and become leader of the opposition. After four elections in two years, Bennett’s incoming government breaks a long political deadlock and ushers in the most diverse coalition Israel has ever seen, including the first Arab party to serve in the government. After lawmakers voted in the new coalition government, Mr Netanyahu walked over to Mr Bennett and shook his hand. In his speech before the Knesset confidence vote, Bennett celebrated the diversity and warned of polarization within the country. He also said: “This is not a day of mourning. There is a change of government in a democracy. That’s it.
During Sunday’s debate in the Knesset (parliament) in Jerusalem, a defiant Mr Netanyahu promised: “We’ll be back.”