Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset, approved its new government on Sunday — and a new prime minister for the first time in 12 years — in a razor-thin 60-59 vote.
Benjamin Netanyahu has lost his 12-year hold on power in Israel after its parliament voted in a new coalition government.
Right-wing nationalist Naftali Bennett has been sworn in as prime minister, leading a “government of change”.
He will lead an unprecedented coalition of parties which was approved with a razor-thin majority of 60-59.
Mr Bennett will be prime minister until September 2023 as part of a power-sharing deal.
He will then hand power over to Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid, for a further two years.
Mr Netanyahu – Israel’s longest-serving leader who has dominated its political landscape for years – will remain head of the right-wing Likud party and become leader of the opposition.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s unseated long-term leader
The rise of Naftali Bennett, Israel’s new PM
During the debate in the Knesset (parliament), a defiant Mr Netanyahu promised: “We’ll be back.”
After the vote, Mr Netanyahu walked over to Mr Bennett and shook his hand.
However, representatives of the Palestinians have reacted dismissively to Israel’s new government.
“This is an internal Israeli affair. Our position has always been clear, what we want is a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital,” a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said.
“It is an occupation and a colonial entity, which we should resist by force to get our rights back,” said a spokesman for Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza.
US President Joe Biden has already sent his congratulations to Mr Bennett, saying he looks forward to working with him.
The new coalition now taking power has been led by the centrist lawmaker Yair Lapid, a former TV anchor and one-time finance minister and head of the Yesh Atid party, and his unlikely governing partner Naftali Bennett, who leads the minority party Yamina.
It’s highly unusual for the leader of a minority party to become prime minister, but that’s what was necessary for Bennett to join Lapid’s coalition — and his alliance with Lapid was the only way the coalition would gain enough party seats in the Knesset to have a majority.
So the arrangement for Lapid and Bennett rests on the agreement that Bennett becomes prime minister, with the centrist Lapid as foreign minister, until 2023. At that point, if the alliance of parties survives, Lapid will take over the premiership.
It’s also the first time in Israeli history that its government includes an Arab party, which will aim to represent the country’s 21% Arab minority.
The government is expected to focus on social and economic issues that are more likely to foster consensus among its varied members than divisive ones like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Palestinian statehood.
But serious challenges lie ahead. The fragile coalition between Lapid and Bennett, and the parties whose support they had to secure to achieve the magic number of a 61-seat majority in the Knesset is a risk to itself, analysts say. The only thing seemingly holding it together is a common desire to unseat Netanyahu. But because of its incredibly slim majority of 61 seats in the 120-person parliament, all it would take is one defection for the government to collapse.
And given the sometimes extreme divergence in views among the parties within it, particularly between Israel’s right-wing and Islamist politicians, this risk of gridlock and collapse remains a constant threat.