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PoliticsMiddle East

Israeli lawmakers poised to end Netanyahu's reign

June 13, 2021

The Israeli Knesset will vote on whether to send Benjamin Netanyahu into opposition after 12 years as prime minister. A new coalition would comprise eight parties from across the political spectrum.

Israel's Knesset Parliament
Israel's Knesset Parliament is due to vote in a new government to end Benjamin Netanyahu's ruleImage: Ilia Yefimovich/dpa/picture-alliance

Israeli lawmakers on Sunday will hold a vote of confidence in a coalition government that seeks to end Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's 12-year hold on power.

The coalition is comprised of bitter ideological rivals who are united by their will to oust Netanyahu, Israel's longest-serving leader.

Sunday's vote will either usher in a new "change" government with a razor-thin majority or return the country to a political stalemate likely to trigger a fifth general election since 2019.

Who is in the anti-Netanyahu coalition?

The coalition, which has 61 of the 120 Knesset seats, brings together eight disparate parties from across the political spectrum, ranging from the right-wing nationalist Yamina party to Arab lawmakers.

The alliance, which includes three right-wing, two centrist and two left-wing parties, along with an Arab Islamic conservative party, was cobbled together by centrist politician Yair Lapid.

All coalition agreements have been signed and were submitted to the Knesset on Friday.

Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett said the moment brought "to an end two and a half years of political crisis."

Naftali Bennett (L) and Yesh Atid
Right-wing politician Naftali Bennet and centrist Yesh Atid will form the new government with six other parties.Image: Ronen Zvulun/UPI Photo/ Newscom/picture alliance

Who will be the new PM?

If the coalition wins the confidence vote, Bennett, a former defense minister, will serve as prime minister for two years.

After that, Lapid, who heads the Yesh Atid party and is a former television presenter, would take the helm.

It will also be the first time that the government will include a party that represents the 21% Arab minority.

The coalition plans largely to avoid sweeping moves on hot-button international issues such as policy toward the Palestinians while they focus on domestic reforms.

Naftali Bennett
Naftali Bennett will serve as Israel's prime minister for the first two years of the coalitionImage: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

How has Netanyahu responded?

The ever-combative Netanyahu, known by his nickname Bibi, has tried to pressurize his former right-wing allies to defect from the nascent coalition.

He has also attacked the legitimacy of the Bennett-Lapid partnership, accusing the right-wing politician of being a "fraud" for siding with rivals.

He has called the coalition "the greatest election fraud in the history" of Israel.

His Likud party said the remarks refer to Bennett entering a coalition that "doesn't reflect the will of the voters."

Benjamin Netanyahu wearing a mask
Netanyahu has attacked the new coalition as the 'greatest election fraud' in Israel's historyImage: Reuters/A. Valman

'Bye Bye, Bibi'

On Saturday night, in anticipation of Netanyahu's exit, over 2,000 protesters gathered outside his official residence — the site of weekly protests against the Israeli leader for the past year — to celebrate and claim victory.

"For us, this is a big night and tomorrow will be even a bigger day. I am almost crying. We fought peacefully for this (Netanyahu's departure) and the day has come," one of the protesters, Ofir Robinski told news agency AFP.

A black banner stretched across a wall read: "Bye Bye, Bibi, Bye-bye," and demonstrators sang, beat drums and danced.

adi/mm (AFP, Reuters)