The 12-year presence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will end on Sunday when parliament votes on a new government, leading to an administration that has pledged to heal a nation bitterly divided by the departure of the country’s longest-serving leader. .
Netanyahu, 71, the most dominant Israeli politician of his generation, had failed to form a government after the March 23 Israeli elections, the fourth in two years.
The new cabinet, which will be sworn in after a vote of confidence by the Knesset is expected to win, was paved by centrist opposition leader Yair Lapid and ultranationalist Naftali Bennett.
Bennett, a high-tech tech millionaire, will act as prime minister for two years before Lapid, a former popular television host, takes over.
They lead a government comprising parties across the political spectrum, including for the first time one representing the 21% Arab minority. They plan to largely avoid major movements on far-reaching international issues, such as Palestinian politics, while focusing on domestic reforms.
With little or no prospect of progress toward resolving the decades-long conflict with Israel, many Palestinians will not be moved by the change of administration, saying Bennett will likely follow the same right-wing agenda as Netanyahu.
With his brilliant English voice and booming baritone, Netanyahu has become the face of Israel. He served his first term as prime minister in the 1990s and, since 2009, has won four more consecutive terms, has been a polarizing figure, both abroad and at home.
Often referred to by his nickname Bibi, Netanyahu is loved by his hard core supporters and hated by critics. His ongoing corruption process, with charges he denies, has only deepened the abyss.
His opponents have long denounced what they see as Netanyahu’s divisive rhetoric, ruthless political tactics, and the subjection of state interests to his own political survival. Some have dubbed him a “crime minister” and accused him of abusing the coronavirus crisis and its economic consequences.
Celebrations by his opponents to mark the end of the Netanyahu era began on Saturday afternoon outside his official residence in Jerusalem, the site of weekly protests against the right-wing leader over the past year, where a black banner it stretched through a wall: Bye Bye, Bibi, Bye bye ”, and the protesters sang, beat drums and danced.
But for Netanyahu’s large and loyal voter base, the departure of “King Bibi,” as some call him, may be hard to accept. His supporters are angry at what they see as the country turns its back on a leader dedicated to its security and a bulwark against international pressure for any step that could lead to a Palestinian state, even in promoting diplomatic dealings with the United Arab Emirates. Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.
However, none of these moves or the role it played in securing COVID-19 vaccines for the inoculation campaign that beat the world in the country were enough to grant Netanyahu’s Likud party enough votes to secure him a sixth term.
Bennett, in particular, has extracted anger from the right-wing camp to break a campaign promise by joining forces with Lapid. He justified the move by saying that other elections, which would probably be called if no government was formed, would have been a disaster for Israel.
Both he and Lapid have said they want to save political divisions and unite Israelis under a government that will work hard for all its citizens.
His cabinet faces considerable diplomatic, security and financial challenges: Iran, a fragile ceasefire with Palestinian groups in Gaza, an International Criminal Court war crimes investigation and economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition, his patchwork party coalition commands only a meager majority in parliament, 61 of the 120 seats in the Knesset, and will still have to fight Netanyahu, who will surely be a militant opposition leader.
And no one rules out Netanyahu’s comeback.