On Friday, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will formally take over as interim prime minister under the terms of a coalition agreement reached between outgoing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Lapid last year. Because Lapid – a former journalist and former TV presenter – is interim prime minister, there will be no official swearing-in ceremony.
Thursday’s 92-0 vote finally concluded the slow motion that ends with Bennett’s run as prime minister – one of the shortest stints in Israel’s history – and gives former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a potential path back to power.
As the voting ended, Lapid and Bennett wrapped their arms around each other, hugged and exchanged seats until Lapid was sitting as prime minister.
As they were leaving the Knesset hall, Bennett accidentally took Lapid’s mobile phone. “Brother, you took my phone,” Lapid said. Bennett replied, “Brother, I’ve taken over my job.”
New elections will be held on November 1 – the fifth round of voting for Israelis in less than four years. Recent opinion polls show former Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud party on track to win the most seats, but opinion polls do not show that his right-wing bloc will necessarily win enough seats to secure a parliamentary majority and be able to form a ruling government. .
Speaking before parliament before a vote on the dissolution, Netanyahu vowed to return to power.
“We are the only alternative: a strong, stable and responsible national government. A government that restores national honor to the citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu said.
The night before the dissolution, Bennett announced that he would back down from politics and would not run for re-election.
“I will remain a loyal soldier to this country that I have served all my life as a soldier, officer, minister and prime minister. The State of Israel is the love of my life. Serving it is my destiny,” Bennett said. In a letter to the nation. “Now is the time to step back a bit. Look at things from the outside.”
The coalition government has been swaying for weeks. But Bennett and Lapid’s announcement last week that they wanted to dissolve their government and hand power to Lapid came as a surprise.
“In the past few weeks, we have done everything in our power to save this government. In our eyes, its continued presence was in the national interest,” Bennett said earlier this month, standing next to Lapid.
“Believe me, we’ve looked under every rock,” Bennett added. “We didn’t do it for ourselves, but for our beautiful country, for you citizens of Israel.”
Bennett Lapid’s government was sworn in in June of last year, ending Netanyahu’s 12-year premiership.
The coalition consisted of at least eight political parties, and spanned the political spectrum, including for the first time an Arab party led by Mansour Abbas.
United in a desire to prevent Netanyahu – whose corruption trial has already begun in May 2020 – from remaining in power, the disparate coalition partners have agreed to put their core differences to one side.
Although it made major domestic and diplomatic achievements, it was domestic politics that eventually brought down the alliance.
Recent weeks have seen a number of coalition members resign or threaten to resign, leaving the government without a majority in parliament to pass legislation.
The political impasse came to a head earlier this month, when a Knesset vote failed to support the application of Israeli criminal and civil law to Israelis in the occupied West Bank.
Among other things, the regulation, which is renewed every five years, gives Israeli settlers in the Palestinian territories the same legal treatment they enjoy within Israel’s borders, an article of faith for right-wing members of the coalition. Including Prime Minister Bennett.
But two coalition members refused to support the bill, meaning it failed to pass.
Since Parliament was dissolved before the law expired on July 1, the regulation will remain in place until a new government is formed, at which time it will be put to a vote again.
Andrew Carey contributed to this report.
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