New Israel coalition wins vote of confidence
A coalition in Israel that seeks to form a new government has won the vote of confidence in the Knesset on Sunday, bringing an end to Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year rule as prime minister.
Far-right Jewish nationalist Naftali Bennett, who leads the eight-party alliance made up groups from across the political spectrum, promised on Sunday that the coalition "represents all of Israel".
The country's deep divisions were on vivid display as Bennett addressed parliament ahead of the vote. He 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 nuclear deal with world powers.
"Israel will not allow Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons," Bennett said, vowing to maintain Netanyahu's stance on the issue.
"Israel will not be a party to the agreement and will continue to preserve full freedom of action."
Netanyahu had vowed "the Israeli opposition will have a strong and clear voice" if he is ousted from power.
"If it's our destiny to be in the opposition, we'll do so with our heads high until we take down this bad government, and return to lead the country our way," said the right-wing Likud party boss.
The eight parties, including a small Palestinian faction that is making history by sitting in the ruling coalition, are united in their opposition to Netanyahu and new elections, but agree on little else. They are 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.
The new government is promising a return to normalcy after a tumultuous two years that saw four elections, an 11-day war on Gaza last month and a coronavirus outbreak that devastated the economy before it was largely brought under control by a vaccination campaign.
The driving force behind the coalition is Yair Lapid, a political centrist who will become prime minister in two years, if the government lasts that long.