Naftali Bennett, pictured far right, had a career of varied roles in Israeli politics before becoming the incumbent Prime Minister.
Bennett, Ends Netanyahu’s 12 years of premiership
Commentary by Ahmad Al Jabbouri
June 22, 2021
Last week, the Israeli parliament elected Naftali Bennett as prime minister by a very small majority of 60 votes against 59. Naftali Bennett has called his government a “government of change.”
This parliament election ended Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year premiership in Israel, but he promised his supporters that he would work to hinder this “dangerous government.”
Naftali Bennett, a 49-year-old far-right politician, entered Israeli politics as an intern for Benjamin Netanyahu.
He has served as Netanyahu’s adviser, senior aide, and chief of staff, and has served as Minister of Education and Defense in recent Netanyahu administrations.
In a statement without naming Netanyahu, US President Joe Biden welcomed the formation of a new government and emphasized his country’s continuing support for Israel.
Before the vote, the Israeli parliament elected a new speaker. Mickey Levy received 67 votes out of 120, replacing Yariv Levin from the Likud party. Levy is a member of the Yesh Atid party led by Yair Lapid, who is set to be prime minister for two years in a coalition government.
Mickey Levy, 69, is from a Kurdish Jewish family and has been in parliament since 2013. He was Deputy Minister of Economy in 2013 and 2014.
At a special session in the Knesset, the Israeli party leaders gave inflammatory speeches in favor of a vote of confidence for the new coalition government.
At the beginning of his speech, Bennett thanked his political rival Benjamin Netanyahu for his sacrifices for Israel.
Despite this, Bennett’s speech was objected to by members of the Likud party led by Netanyahu.
Bennett called on opponents in the Knesset to end this “madness” and said that Israel is facing a deep rift inside, which had led to a storm of hatred and strife among the brothers.
Naftali Bennett said his administration would not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, calling the attempt to revive the IAEA and the possibility of a US return to the deal “wrong” and said the Middle East was still recovering from the illness of the nuclear deal “which gave Iran a lot of money”.
He called Iran’s nuclear program one of the main challenges of the new coalition government and said that Israel is not part of the JCPOA, so it has full freedom of action against Iran.
Netanyahu’s message to Tehran: We will be back soon
Netanyahu later said that Naftali Bennett did not have the international credibility to confront Iran.
With a strong attack on the new coalition, he promised as the leader of the opposition in parliament that he would soon overthrow this government.
“My message to those who have celebrated in Tehran is: We will be back soon,” Netanyahu said.
According to an agreement, Bennett will be in power until September 2023, after which Lapid will become prime minister for two years.
Netanyahu, who holds the record for the longest-serving prime minister in Israeli history, will retain the leadership of the right-wing Likud party and become the leader of the opposition.
Benjamin Netanyahu has accused his rivals of trying to form a dangerous left-wing government, promising to overthrow it very soon.
Meanwhile, he is on trial on charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of public trust – which he denies all of them.
What is the Government of Change going to be like?
Bennett’s administration bears no resemblance to the governments that have come to power in the 73 years since Israel was formed.
The coalition includes parties with major ideological differences, perhaps the most important of which is the presence of the first independent Arab party, the United Arab List. The ruling coalition is also expected to include eight women ministers.
The presence of the United Arab List and non-Arab leftist parties in the government could cause friction over issues such as Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians.
Yamina, for example, and the right-wing New Hope party are staunch supporters of ghettos in the occupied West Bank.
There may also be disagreements over social issues. While some parties want to promote gay rights, such as the recognition of same-sex marriage, the United Arab List, an Islamist party, opposes it.
Bennett has said his government will focus on issues that may be agreed upon, such as economic issues or the Corona pandemic, and he will avoid tensions.
“No one has to give up their ideology, but we have to delay the realization of some of our dreams”, he recently stated.