The new Israeli government was sworn in yesterday after it won a confidence vote of 60 to 59 in the Knesset. Naftali Bennett has replaced Benjamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister.
Netanyahu did not go down without a fight. Just hours before the Knesset vote, Police and building inspectors arrived at the Bedouin village of Bir Hadaj in the Negev, which is home to Ra’am MK Said al-Harumi, to demolish several homes in violation of building codes, including some belonging to his relatives. According to sources close to al-Harumi, Netanyahu and departing Interior Minister Aryeh Deri promised to stop the demolition process in exchange for his refusal to vote with the new coalition. But al-Harumi did vote for the coalition.
In his speech following the vote of confidence for the new government, Netanyahu called the election results a fraud and lie, in that Bennett stole the votes of hundreds of thousands of right-wing voters who would never have agreed to join a unity government with the center and left. He claimed that those voters actually wanted him to remain as prime minister. He also called the new government weak and unable to deal with the issues facing Israel, and he promised to come back to power very soon. For now, Netanyahu takes his place as leader of the opposition.
The new government is composed of parties spanning the political spectrum, from far-right to far-left, and the first Arab party to ever sit in a government.
Naftali Bennett will serve as PM for the the first 2 years. Bennett is the head of the right wing Yamina party, which is pro settlement expansion and against a Palestinian state. He most recently served as Defense Minister under Netanyahu. Bennett was born in 1972 in Haifa, to parents who immigrated to Israel from the US in 1967. As a child he spent several years in the US with his parents and went to elementary school in NJ for a couple of years. He returned to Israel at age 10. Bennett served as a commander of elite commando units in the IDF. He was a successful high-tech entrepreneur and sold 2 companies before entering politics. Bennett is the first orthodox Jew to serve as Prime Minister. US President Biden called to congratulate Bennett last night.
Yair Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid party — which is the second largest party in Knesset, will serve as foreign minister for the first 2 years and then take over as PM. Benny Gantz, head of Blue and White, will remain Defense Minister. Gideon Sa’ar, head of the right wing New Hope party, will be Justice Minister. Avigdor Lieberman, head of right wing Yisrael Beteynu, will be Finance Minister. To read more about these and the other new ministers, click here.
The first test of the new government will come on Tuesday, when the nationalist March of the Flags is scheduled to take place in the Old City of Jerusalem. Hamas is threatening more rocket fire and additional Arab violence in Israel could be triggered by the march.