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Israel’s parliamentary coalition ends Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12 years reign as prime minister

FILE PHOTO- Naftali Bennett, Israeli parliament member from the Yamina party, gives a statement at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem, June 6, 2021. Menahem Kahana-Pool via REUTERS

A disparate anti-Netanyahu parliamentary coalition on Sunday ousted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to elect right-wing leader Naftali Bennett as a replacement.

Bennett, an ultranationalist who opposes Palestinian sovereignty, pipped Netanyahu, who had been prime minister for 15 years, including the last 12 years, 60 to 59 votes, with one abstention.

Yair Lapid, a leader of the center-left Yesh Atid Party, would replace Bennett after two years, if their government can hold together that long, according to the power sharing agreement the coalition reached.

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

The election now means that Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset, is now controlled by an eight-party alliance ranging from left to right, from secular to religious, that has little in common except the desire to oust Netanyahu, the longest-serving leader in the country’s history.

Netanyahu’s reign ended following Israel’s four inconclusive elections in two years which has left the country without a state budget for much of the time.

The political gridlock fueled disgust among voters with every coalition cobbled together in the Knesset either entering a gridlock or crumbling after a short while.

The new fragile government, which called itself the “change government,” now has its work well cut out for them. First, the parliament would have to ratify the agreement in the coming days.

It remains to be seen how long the highly diverse coalition that includes centrists, leftists and even a small Arab Islamist party would hold together as the only political view they have in common is the animosity towards Netanyahu.

Bennett has said that a coalition of ideological opposites was formed because it was their last resort to end the political impasse that has grounded Israel.

“The political crisis in Israel is unprecedented on a global level,” New York Times quoted him as saying in a televised speech on Sunday. “We could end up with fifth, sixth, even 10th elections, dismantling the walls of the country, brick by brick, until our house falls in on us. Or we can stop the madness and take responsibility.”

Added to the corruption charges he is fighting to starve off, Netanyahu would also be fighting to revive his political lifeline as he is bound to lose his position as the head of his right-wing Likud party.

Yet, analysts believe you write Netanyahu, 71, off at your own peril. His political agility to wriggle out of tight situation has left even his detractors to call him a magician with supporters likening him to biblical King David.

“I say today: Do not let your spirits fall,” Netanyahu was quoted as saying by New York Times. “I will lead you in a daily battle against this bad and dangerous left-wing government, and bring it down. And with the help of God, this will happen faster than you think.”

But the new coalition has it would set aside its issues and focus on rebuilding the economy. Whether or not its political contradictions would make it achieve remains to be seen.

Although a high-tech entrepreneur and former chief of staff to Netanyahu, Israel’s new prime minister, Naftali Bennett, 49, entered the Israeli Parliament eight years ago.

The self-made millionaire son of American immigrants is relatively unknown and inexperienced on the international stage, leaving the world as well as many Israelis wondering what kind of leader he might be.

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