Yamina party leader, Naftali Bennett
(Yamina party leader, Naftali Bennett)

Netanyahu’s opponents reach deal to form new govt

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On Wednesday (June 2), Israeli opposition politician Yair Lapid announced he has reached the necessary majority to form a government, with eight parties converging to oust Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-running prime minister, with 12 consecutive years in the position.

Lapid was picked to form a new government by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in May, after Netanyahu  failed to do so in the wake of the March election.

According to the Basic Law on Government, the chief of the hawkish Yamina party, Naftali Bennett, a former ally of Netanyahu, will serve as Israel’s prime minister for two years before being replaced by Lapid as per a rotation basis enshrined in the law.

The new government is not expected to be sworn in in the coming days, as the Knesset needs to have a vote in the next 12 days to finalize the forming of the coalition.

If things go according to plan, Israel will have a government by the middle of June. However,
it will face considerable challenges. As well as Iran and the peace process with the Palestinians, it also faces a war crimes probe by the International Criminal Court and economic recovery following the coronavirus.

Netanyahu has accused the former allies who joined the incoming coalition of betraying right-wing values and claimed the newly formed coalition was based on “selling out” the Negev, one of the regions that are a matter of dispute between Israel and Palestine, to Ra’am (United Arab List), a
small party that currently holds four seats in Knesset.

Netanyahu, charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust – accusations he denies – still
controls 30 seats in the 120-member Knesset, and is set to become the leader of the opposition, with his party, Likud, remaining the largest. However,  if proven guilty, he could face up to 10 years behind bars for bribery and up to 3 years for fraud and breach of trust.

UPDATE 13/06/2021

Knesset voted in favor of confirming the country’s new government, ending  Netanyahu’s 12-year rule. He will be replaced by Bennett after the right-wing entrepreneur’s new, wide-ranging coalition was backed by 60 lawmakers in the 120-member Knesset. Fifty-nine lawmakers voted against his coalition and one abstained. Bennett’s eight-party coalition is made up of parties from across the political spectrum, including an independent Arab party for the first time in Israel’s history

With reporting by Reuters, The New York Times, DW, The Wall Street Journal