Naftali Bennett, the head of a small ultra-nationalist party, was sworn in as the Prime Minister of Israel after a narrow 60-59 vote in the Israeli Parliament. The approval of the new coalition on Sunday sent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into the opposition after a record 12-years in office. Netanyahu, on trial for corruption, assumes leadership of the largest party in Parliament, putting Bennett in a rather precarious position as the loss of even one faction switching to Netanyahu’s party creates an opening for Netanyahu to return to power. PM Netanyahu’s 12-years long uninterrupted journey of power came to an end with accusations of ‘illegitimate use of power’, facing charges of bribery, and four elections over the past two years, finally concluded yesterday with Bennett being sworn in.
The extreme political differences in Israel made themselves visible, when Bennett addressed the parliament prior to the commencement of the vote, as is customary. Continually getting interrupted by several of Benjamin Netanyahu’s supporters during the speech, numerous advocates were escorted out of the chamber.
From Indian Prime Minister Modi to the United States President Biden, world leaders have welcomed the new Isreali PM and congratulated him on his victory. Netanyahu’s relationship with the US, contrastingly, has been rather rocky, and it remains to be determined whether Bennett will go down the same road. Netanyahu had vigorously campaigned against Obama’s emerging nuclear deal with Iran, but this very refusal had little consequences with Trump’s administration. Netanyahu has portrayed himself as a world class statesman, boasting of close ties with Trump as well as President Putin of Russia. The current government in the United States however, had offered a pretty cold welcome to Netanyahu, as he is widely seen as having undermined the long tradition of bipartisan support for Israel in the United States.
Specifically discussing the new regime under the newly sworn-in Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett vows to maintain Netanyahu’s confrontational policy, claiming that Israel will not allow Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons. Netanyahu on the other hand, vowed to return to power, predicting that the incoming government would be weak on Iran and abide by the United States’ demands with regards to concessions to the Palestinians, moving a step further to label Bennett’s government as ‘dangerous’.
Netanyahu remains popular among the hardcore nationalists who dominate Israeli politics, mostly seen to oppose Bennett, but may face opposition for leadership within his own party, due to poor governing in the last 2 years of his prime ministership, as well as the three corruption charges against him. In order to assemble a coalition that is more right-inclined and stable than the current government, Netanyahu must work on being a less polarizing leader, whilst clearing his corruption charges, which could go a long way in reducing Biden’s chilly reception of Netanyahu’s government. Bennett, being more right-wing than the previous government, has received a mixed response from Israeli citizens, and his popularity is yet to be cemented.
Photo credits: The Times of Israel / ABC News / Politico / Reuters / France 24
Written by Srijaa Chatterjee
Edited by Thenthamizh SS and Veda Rodewald
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