Benjamin Netanyahu, the longest serving prime minister of Israel was on Sunday June 13 voted out after Israel’s parliament narrowly approved a new coalition government, ending the historic 12-year rule of Netanyahu and sending the polarizing leader into the opposition.
Naftali Bennett, 49, a longtime Netanyahu ally turned adversary and former minister of defense, assumed the role of prime minister and was sworn in Sunday. Netanyahu will continue as leader of the Likud party and is now the opposition leader.
The vote to form a new coalition government among eight political parties passed by a narrow 60-59 margin.
“On behalf of the American people, I congratulate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Alternate Prime Minister, and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and all the members of the new Israeli cabinet,” U.S President Joe Biden said in a statement Sunday.
“Israel has no better friend than the United States,” he continued. “The bond that unites our people is evidence of our shared values and decades of close cooperation and as we continue to strengthen our partnership, the United States remains unwavering in its support for Israel’s security.”
The votes that saw the removal of Netanyahu, 71, focused largely on his divisive rule and his fitness to remain in office while on trial for corruption charges.
Critics say he has become a polarizing and autocratic leader who used divide-and-rule tactics to aggravate the many rifts in Israeli society. Those include tensions between Jews and Arabs, and within the Jewish majority between his religious and nationalist base and his more secular and dovish opponents.
To his supporters, Netanyahu is a global statesman uniquely capable of leading the country through its many security challenges.