Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year run in power was terminated as Israel’s parliament voted in a disparate coalition that’s pledged to put aside conflicting political ideologies in order to focus on national imperatives like charting an economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. Lawmakers in the 120-member parliament voted 60 to 59 with one abstention to install religious Jewish nationalist Naftali Bennett as prime minister. He’s set to hand the reins in August 2023 to the centrist Yair Lapid under the power-sharing agreement that allowed the new government to get off the ground.
“This is the hour that the burden of leading the nation and the country passes, as in a relay race, to the next generation,” Bennett, a high-tech millionaire, said over the unrelenting heckling of Netanyahu’s allies as he addressed the plenum before the vote. For the indicted Netanyahu, the vote marks a brutal fall from power that leaves him even more legally imperiled. He’s at trial on corruption charges, which he denies, and out of office no longer has the option of seeking to pass legislation shielding a sitting leader from prosecution. He vowed to return to lead the country.
At the top of the new government’s agenda is passing the first national budget in three years to assuage concerns from investors and ratings agencies over Israel’s emergence from the global health crisis. Unemployment and government debt surged last year but Israel has for years been plagued by low productivity, a high cost of living and inequality. Four inconclusive elections over two years, spurred in part by Netanyahu’s ongoing corruption trial, only deepened its problems.