ISRAELI prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been ousted – as a new coalition ends his 12-year reign.
Parliament has today narrowly voted in favour of ending Netanyahu’s historic rule.
And Naftali Bennett – a former ally of the ex-PM turned bitter rival – is the new prime minister.
He will preside over a diverse and fragile coalition of eight parties.
Netanyahu remains head of the Likud party and will hold the post of opposition leader.
Today’s vote, passed by a 60-59 margin, ended a two-year cycle of political paralysis in which the country held four elections.
The seismic political development comes in the tense aftermath of an 11-day war between Israel and Palestine after clashes in Jerusalem sparked a bombing blitz that killed more than 250 people.
The fighting, as well as violence in the occupied West Bank and in mixed Jewish-Arab Israeli towns, initially appeared to strengthen Netanyahu’s grip on power.
But political scientist Gayil Talshir at the Hebrew University said it had pushed Netanyahu into “a desperate position”.
Now, the so-called ‘change coalition’ will see Yamina party leader and nationalist hardliner Bennett serving as the country’s leader first before handing over to Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party.
Netanyahu had defiantly condemned the alliance against him as “the fraud of the century”, warning that it would result in “a left-wing government dangerous to the state of Israel”.
A quarter of the electorate voted for his Likud Party, which remains the largest party with 30 of 120 Knesset seats – meaning no one in Israel has ruled out a comeback.
For Netanyahu’s grassroots backers, dubbed “Bibists”, he remains a leader tough on security and a bulwark against pressure.
From the opposition benches, Netanyahu is likely to press on with a message that the new coalition will be hobbled by its left-wing members.
During a 12-year run in top office, Israel’s longest-serving leader has been a polarising figure at home and abroad.
The coalition members
- Yesh Atid – led by Yair Lapid
- Kahol Lavan – led by Benny Gantz
- Israel Beiteinu – led by Avigdor Lieberman
- Labor – led by Merav Michaeli
- Yamina – led by Naftali Bennett
- New Hope – led by Gideon Sa’ar
- Meretz – led by Nitzan Horowitz
- Ra’am – led by Mansour Abbas
Netanyahu has taken a hard line towards the Palestinians and placed security concerns at the top of any discussion of peace.
He has also long warned of the danger to Israel from Iran.
Under his rule, Israel has launched waves of attacks and assassinations in a bid to cripple the theocracy’s nuclear weapons programme.
His Netanyahu’s stewardship of Israel’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout has won praise globally — but this was not enough to halt his political downfall.
Meanwhile, he’s facing criminal charges over alleged favours to media tycoons and illegal receipt of expensive cigars and champagne.
The allegations led to him being dubbed “crime minister”.
Netanyahu has denied all wrongdoing and says, without offering any evidence, that he is a victim of a deep state conspiracy against him.