By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent
Naftali Bennett, a former ally of Netanyahu turned rival, became prime minister after the legislators approved the coalition of disparate anti-Netanyahu forces, by just a single vote — 60 to 59, with one abstention.
But the 71-year-old Netanyahu made clear he has no intention of exiting the political stage following his historic 12-year rule.
“If it is destined for us to be in the opposition, we will do it with our backs straight until we topple this dangerous government and return to lead the country,” he warned.
Under the government agreement Yair Lapid, a centrist leader, will take over from Bennett after two years if their coalition can hold together that long.
They lead an eight-party alliance ranging from left to right, from secular to religious, that agrees on little but to oust Netanyahu, who faces corruption and abuse of power charges.
Despite political uncertainty, Bennett said in a speech that he was sure, “We stopped the train before the abyss.” He added: “The time has come for different leaders, from all parts of the people, to stop, to stop this madness.”
Separately he also thanked Netanyahu for his “lengthy and achievement-filled service on behalf of the State of Israel” and pledged to be prime minister for “all Israelis.”
He stressed the new government would “end a terrible period of hatred among the people of Israel.”
As the political drama unfolded, anti- Netanyahu protestors reacted with joy in Jerusalem as parliament approved the new governing coalition.
Netanyahu supporters doubt whether the new government can lead a nation recovering from recent massive rocket attacks launched by militants in Gaza and the coronavirus pandemic.
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