Netanyahu out as new Israeli government approved

Brings to an end 12 years of political paralysis.

In Summary

• Right-wing nationalist Naftali Bennett will be prime minister until September 2023 as part of a power-sharing deal.

• Bennett will lead an unprecedented coalition of parties which was approved with a razor-thin majority of 60-59.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. /REUTERS
Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. /REUTERS

Benjamin Netanyahu has lost his 12-year hold on power in Israel after the country's parliament voted in a new coalition government.

A new "government of change" will be led by right-wing nationalist Naftali Bennett of the Yamina party.

He will lead an unprecedented coalition of parties which was approved with a razor-thin majority of 60-59.

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.

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 the leader of the opposition.

During the debate in the Knesset (parliament), a defiant Netanyahu promised: "We'll be back."

US President Joe Biden has already sent his congratulations to Bennett, saying he looks forward to working with him.

Why has this happened?

Netanyahu has served a record-breaking five terms, first from 1996 to 1999, then continuously from 2009 to 2021.

He called an election in April 2019 but failed to win enough support to form a new coalition government. Two more elections followed, each of which ended inconclusively.

The third election resulted in a government of national unity where Netanyahu agreed to share power with the then-opposition leader Benny Gantz. But the arrangement collapsed in December, triggering a fourth election.

Although Likud emerged as the largest party in the 120-seat Knesset, Netanyahu was again unable to form a governing coalition and the task was handed to Lapid, whose centrist Yesh Atid party had emerged as the second larges

Opposition to Netanyahu staying in power had grown, not just among the left and centre but also among right-wing parties that are ordinarily ideologically aligned to Likud, including Yamina.

Although Yamina came joint fifth in the election with only seven seats, its support was critical if any potential coalition government was to have a majority in parliament.

After weeks of negotiations, Lapid brought Yamina on board as part of a constellation of parties whose only common goal was to remove Netanyahu from office.

The agreement involving eight factions with the 61 seats required for a majority was signed on 2 June, just half an hour before a deadline was due to expire, effectively sealing Netanyahu's fate.