Israel’s parliament, known as the Knesset, ended Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year run as prime minister on Sunday. By a vote of 60-59, a coalition of eight parties joined together behind new leaders Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid.
Bennett will serve as Israel’s prime minister for the next two years. And Lapid will take over in 2023. He will serve as foreign minister until then.
Bennett and Netanyahu met briefly on Monday to signal the change of government. But there was no traditional ceremony to go along with the meeting.
Minutes after the meeting, Netanyahu repeated his promise to unseat the new government. He told members of his Likud party, "It will happen sooner than you think.” Netanyahu remains the leader of Likud. His right-wing party still holds more seats than any other in the parliament.
The Bennett-Lapid government is a coalition of right-wing, centrist, left-wing, and Arab parties. They have little in common other than a desire to unseat Netanyahu. The efforts for a new government came together after Israel held four elections in two years.
U.S. President Joe Biden called Bennett late Sunday to wish him well. In a statement, Biden said he looks forward to working with Bennett’s government to “strengthen all aspects of the close and enduring relationship between our two nations.”
Lapid, the foreign minister, wrote on Twitter that he spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. He added that the new government will work on important relationships, including those with American Jews, the Democratic Party in the U.S., countries in Europe, and neighboring Jordan.
The Bennett-Lapid government opposes a return to the 2015 nuclear agreement between world powers and Iran. In 2018, former President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the deal. But the Biden administration wants to re-start talks with Iran. Lapid said that Israel would “prevent by all means the possibility of Iran getting nuclear weapons.”
On its first day, the new government faces a difficult decision over whether to permit a right-wing group to march through the Muslim part of East Jerusalem on Tuesday.
Palestinian groups called the planned event a “provocation.”
If the march goes ahead, it could start a new confrontation between the Jews and Arabs. And a change or cancellation of the march could reduce right-wing support for the new coalition government.
The Hamas militant group that rules the Gaza Strip also warned of the possibility of renewed hostilities if the march goes ahead. A ceasefire less than a month ago ended 11 days of fighting between Hamas and Israeli forces.
Despite the difficulties, Yohanan Plesner of the Israel Democracy Institute thinks the new government can succeed by centering on the economy and budget.
He said if this government can pass a budget in the next few months, “we can expect this government to serve for at least two or three years. Otherwise, the instability will continue."
I’m Dan Friedell.
Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learning English based on reporting by The Associated Press and Reuters. Hai Do was the editor.
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Words in This Story
wing- n. a particular part of a large organization or group
enduring- adj. a way to describe something that lasts for a long time
provocation –n. an action or occurrence that causes someone to become angry or to begin to do something
instability - n. the state of being likely to change