Israel turned a new page on Sunday with a very close vote of confidence in parliament that anointed a “coalition of change” made up of ideological rivals united to remove Benjamin Netanyahu, the longest-serving prime minister in its history, from power.
The right-wing Naftali Bennet, in an alliance that goes from left to right and includes Arab parties, obtained the favorable vote of 60 of the 119 deputies present (out of 120 that the Chamber has), and 59 against, belonging to the Likud of the outgoing head of government and the extreme right and ultra-Orthodox groups.
The Knesset had started its session shortly after 4 p.m. for the centrist and opposition leader Yair Lapid and the radical right Naftali Bennett to present their equipment before the vote.
“I understand that today is not an easy day for many, but neither is it a day of mourning, it is a day of change, of regime change within the framework of a democracy,” the radical right-wing leader had indicated in his speech to the Knesset.
“I promise that this government will work for the entire country as a whole; no one should be afraid,” he added.
He also warned that his government would not let “Iran develop nuclear weapons” and “reserves absolute freedom of action” against Tehran.
In his turn, the outgoing head of government, Benjamin Netanyahu, told parliament that he would continue politics and predicted that he would return to power “soon.”
“If our destiny is to be in the opposition, we will do it with our heads held high, we will bring down this bad government, and we will lead the country again in our own way (…) We will be back soon!” he assured.
Before the government approved the vote of this heterogeneous coalition (two parties from the left, two from the center, three from the right, and an Arab formation), the centrist opposition leader Lapid had tweeted: “The morning of the change. “
The outgoing prime minister, for his part, published on the same social network a photo with the late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who wished him “success” in his struggles.
Netanyahu, 71, has been on trial for a year for alleged corruption. The protests to request his resignation had been happening, the last of them on Saturday night.
In front of their official residence in Jerusalem, the protesters did not wait for the vote in Parliament to celebrate the “fall” of “King Bibi,” the nickname of Netanyahu, who was head of government from 1996 to 1999 without interruption since 2009.
“The only thing Netanyahu wanted was to divide us, one part of society against the other, but tomorrow we will be united, right, left, Jews, Arabs,” said Ofir Robinsky, a protester.
“Okay, it’s over; he’s leaving,” said Gali Israel Tal, a 62-year-old protester.
The new coalition will be led by Naftali Bennett, head of the right-wing Yamina party, for the first two years and then by Yair Lapid for an equivalent period.