Israel’s parliament has narrowly voted in favor of a new coalition government, ending Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s historic 12-year rule.
Naftali Bennett, the head of a small ultranationalist party, was sworn in as prime minister after a narrow 60-59 vote in parliament.
But if Bennett wants to keep the job, he will have to maintain an unwieldy coalition of parties from the political right, left and center.
The eight parties, including a small Arab faction that is making history by sitting in the ruling coalition, are united in their opposition to Netanyahu and new elections but they agree on very little else.
The coalition government is likely to pursue a modest agenda that seeks to reduce tensions with the Palestinians and maintain good relations with the US without launching any major initiatives.
Netanyahu sat silently during the vote.
After it was approved, he stood up to leave the chamber, before turning around and shaking Bennett’s hand.
A dejected Netanyahu, wearing a black medical mask, briefly sat in the opposition leader’s chair before walking out.
Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, remains the head of Likud, the largest party in parliament, and he is expected to vigorously oppose the new government.
If just one faction bolts, it could lose its majority and would be at risk of collapse, giving him an opening to return to power.
The country’s deep divisions were on vivid display as Bennett addressed parliament ahead of the vote.
The new Prime Minister was repeatedly interrupted and loudly heckled by supporters of Netanyahu, several of whom were escorted out of the chamber.
Bennett’s speech mostly dwelled on domestic issues, but he expressed opposition to US efforts to revive Iran’s deal with world powers, which prevented the Islamic Republic from pursuing nuclear weapons.
"Israel will not allow Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons," Bennett said, vowing to maintain Netanyahu’s confrontational policy. "Israel will not be a party to the agreement and will continue to preserve full freedom of action."
Bennett nevertheless thanked President Joe Biden and the US for its decades of support for Israel.
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