Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was on Sunday ousted by an alliance of Israeli parties that formed a new government. The development is being seen as a major shift in the country’s turbulent politics, with a right-wing Jewish nationalist and former tech millionaire Naftali Bennett leading the eight-party bloc.
The alliance’s only common attribute seems to the ouster of Netanyahu who has served as the prime minister of the country from 1996 to 1999 and 2009 to 2021. Notably, 71-year-old Netanyahu has for a long time been a dominant and increasingly divisive figure in Israeli politics and his critics call him “crime minister”.
But on Sunday, a vote in the Knesset legislature following weeks of intense political drama ended his government with a razor-thin majority of 60 to 59 in the 120-seat chamber. In typically combative style, Netanyahu just before his defeat vowed “if it is our destiny to be in the opposition, we will do so with our heads high until we take down this bad government and return to lead the country our way”.
Bennett, a former defence minister under Netanyahu, vowed to keep Israel safe from Iran, promising that “Israel won’t let Iran have nuclear weapons” –a goal the Islamic republic denies pursuing.
Corruption charges against Netanyahu
The septuagenarian is fighting corruption charges in an ongoing trial. However, he has dismissed the charges as a conspiracy against him. Being ousted from the top job will leave Netanyahu more exposed to his legal woes, because it denies him the chance to push through parliament changes to basic laws that could give him immunity.
PM Modi congratulates Naftali Bennett
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday congratulated Naftali Bennett for becoming the prime minister of Israel. He tweeted, “Excellency @naftalibennett, congratulations on becoming the prime minister of Israel. As we celebrate 30 years of the upgradation of diplomatic relations next year, I look forward to meeting you and deepening the strategic partnership between our two countries. @IsraeliPM.”
PM Modi also expressed “deep appreciation” for Netanyahu’s leadership. In a tweet, he said, “As you complete your successful tenure as the Prime Minister of the State of Israel, I convey my profound gratitude for your leadership and personal attention to India-Israel strategic partnership @netanyahu.”
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