Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year long tenure as Israel’s prime minister ended, as the country’s parliament on Sunday approved a new coalition government led by right-wing nationalist Naftali Bennett.
Mr Bennett controls 6 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, was sworn in as prime minister after the parliament backed the new coalition government by a razor-thin margin of 60 votes to 59.
Bennett will lead an unlikely alliance of left-wing, centrist and right-wing parties, as well as a party that represents Palestinian citizens of Israel, who account for 21 percent of the country’s population.
Under a rotational agreement, Mr Bennett will serve as prime minister for two years, after which he will be replaced by centrist leader Yair Lapid, the chief architect of the new government.
They plan largely to avoid sweeping moves on issues such as policy towards Palestinians in the occupied territories while they focus on domestic reforms. But with little to no prospect of resuming any sort of fair peace negotiations, many Palestinians are unmoved by the change of administration, saying Bennett will likely pursue the same agenda as right-wing Netanyahu.
Netanyahu, who served for 12 years as prime minister, sat silently during the vote on Sunday. After the new government was approved, he stood up to leave the chamber, before turning around and shaking Bennett’s hand.
A dejected Netanyahu, wearing a black medical mask, then briefly sat in the opposition leader’s chair before walking out.
Netanyahu, the most dominant Israeli politician of his generation, failed to form a government after Israel’s March 23 election, its fourth in two years.
The 71-year-old is facing an ongoing corruption trial, on charges he denies, has only deepened the chasm.
He will however remain the head of the largest party in parliament and is expected to vigorously oppose the new government.
If just one faction bolts, it could lose its majority and would be at risk of collapse, giving Netanyahu an opening to return to power.