On Friday, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will formally take over as interim prime minister under the terms of a coalition agreement between outgoing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Lapid last year. Lapid, a former journalist and TV presenter, will not be formally inaugurated as he is an interim prime minister.
Thursday’s 92-0 vote finally ended in slow motion that ended Bennett’s term as prime minister – one of the shortest in Israeli history – and offers former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a potential path to a return to power.
When the voting ended, Lapid and Bennett wrapped their arms around each other, embraced, and swapped places for Lapid to sit in the prime ministerial position.
As they were leaving the Knesset floor, Bennett accidentally took Lapid’s cell phone. “Brother,” Lapid said, “you took my phone.” “Brother, you took my job,” replied Bennett.
New elections will be held on November 1 – a fifth round of voting for Israelis in less than four years. Recent polls show former prime minister Netanyahu’s Likud party is on track to gain the most seats, but polls do not show that his right-wing bloc will necessarily have enough seats to win a majority in parliament and form a ruling government. .
Speaking on the parliamentary floor before the shutdown vote, Netanyahu pledged to return to power.
“We are the only alternative: a strong national government, stable and responsible. A government that will restore national dignity to Israeli citizens,” Netanyahu said.
The night before the termination, Bennett announced that he would withdraw from politics and would not seek re-election.
Bennett said, “I will remain a loyal soldier of this country, where I have served all my life as a soldier, officer, minister and prime minister. The State of Israel is the love of my life. It is my destiny to serve it.” In his speech to the nation, “Now is the time to take a step back. Look at things from the outside.”
The coalition government had been faltering for weeks. But it came as a surprise when Bennett and Lapid announced last week that they wanted to dissolve their own government and hand over power to Lapid.
“Over the last few weeks, we’ve done everything we can to save this government. In our eyes, it’s in the national interest for the government to continue,” said Bennett, who stood by Lapid earlier this month.
“Believe me, we looked under every stone. We did this not for ourselves, but for our beautiful country, for you citizens of Israel,” said Bennett.
The Bennett-Lapid government was sworn in in June last year, ending more than 12 years of Netanyahu’s term as prime minister.
The coalition of at least eight political parties spanned the entire political spectrum, including for the first time an Arab party led by Mansour Abbas.
Combined with a desire to prevent Netanyahu from staying in power, whose corruption trial began in May 2020, the different coalition partners agreed to put their key differences to one side.
Although it achieved significant domestic and diplomatic successes, it was domestic politics that ultimately collapsed the coalition.
In recent weeks, many coalition members have either resigned or threatened to resign, and the government has lost the parliamentary majority to pass the bill.
The political stalemate culminated earlier this month when the Knesset vote failed to approve the application of Israeli criminal and civil law to Israelis in the occupied West Bank.
Among other things, the arrangement, which is to be renewed every five years, provides Israeli settlers in the Palestinian territories with the same legal treatment they receive within Israel’s borders and is a clause of faith for right-wing members of the coalition. Including Prime Minister Bennett.
But two members of the coalition refused to support the bill, meaning it could not pass.
As parliament was dissolved before the law expired on 1 July, the regulation will remain in effect until a new government is formed and will be put to a vote again on that date.
Andrew Carey contributed to this report.