Longtime Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has officially been removed from power after the Israeli Knesset voted to form a new coalition government Sunday.
After 12 years at the helm of America’s closest ally in the Middle East, Netanyahu will become the parliament’s opposition leader as head of the Likud party. He’ll be replaced as prime minister by Naftali Bennett of the New Right party.
Israel was forced to hold four elections in just two years after attempts to form a coalition government repeatedly failed with Netanyahu in charge. Sunday’s coalition was formed by a narrow 60-59 vote, and Bennett will lead a government comprised of a diverse array of eight different parties.
Netanyahu vowed to return to power in a speech given to parliament ahead of the vote, and accused the incoming government of being weak on Iran and Palestinians. (RELATED: Blinken Announces Reopening Of Jerusalem Consulate General In Bid To Improve US-Palestinian Relations)
The now-former prime minister will now have to face an ongoing trial for corruption charges without the power of the premiership. His Likud party remains the biggest in the Knesset, and could quickly return to power if the fragile Bennett coalition cracks.
Bennett’s speech to parliament Sunday focused on domestic issues but expressed opposition to U.S. attempts to re-enter the Iran nuclear deal, a key priority of President Joe Biden’s foreign policy.
“Israel will not allow Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons,” Bennett said. “Israel will not be a party to the agreement and will continue to preserve full freedom of action.”
Biden issued statement congratulating new Israeli PM Bennett that makes no mention of Netanyahu, Israel’s outgoing and longest serving leader pic.twitter.com/c4nDA5HsiL
— Josh Lederman (@JoshNBCNews) June 13, 2021
Biden released a statement Sunday congratulating Bennett, and said he looks forward to strengthening “all aspects of the close and enduring relationship” between the U.S. and Israel.
Bennett’s coalition spans the entirety of the Israeli political spectrum, including his New Right party alongside centrist and left-wing factions in the Knesset. An Arab party, Ra’am, helped put Bennett’s coalition over the top.
The agreement marks the first time an Arab-led party has joined forces in a governing coalition with Israel’s right-wing.