Speed Reads

Not going gentle

Israel's Netanyahu will not attend successor Naftali Bennett's inauguration ceremony

Israel had a contentious but peaceful transfer of power on Sunday, as an unlikely government of eight parties from across the religious and ideological spectrum unseated Israel's longest-serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. After the "change" coalition won a narrow 60-59 vote of confidence, far-right nationalist Naftali Bennett was sworn in as prime minister, promising to lead a government that "will forge forward on that which we agree — and there is much we agree on, transport, education, and so on — and what separates us we will leave to the side."

Netanyahu, a former mentor to Bennett and now opposition leader in the Knesset (parliament), will not attend Bennett's ceremonial inauguration on Monday, his office informed Bennett's team Sunday, though he will meet with the new prime minister for a transition meeting. Netanyahu pursued to the end a scorched-earth campaign to stay in power by fracturing the coalition and pushing Israel into a fifth election in two years. "I will lead you in the daily struggle against this evil and dangerous leftist government in order to topple it," he said before the vote. "God willing, it will happen a lot faster than what you think." 

Netanyahu's followers heckled and jeered Bennett as he spoke before the confidence vote, leading to some of them being ejected. Yair Lapid, the centrist new foreign minister and driving force behind the change coalition, scrapped his planned speech and told the hecklers he was ashamed his 86-year-old mother had to witness their behavior. "I wanted her to be proud of the democratic process in Israel," he said. "Instead she, along with every citizen of Israel, is ashamed of you and remembers clearly why it's time to replace you." Lapid will become prime minister in two years if the government holds that long. 

According to the new government's power-sharing guidelines published Friday, power will be divided evenly between the right-wing (Yamina, New Hope, Yisrael Beiteinu), centrist (Yesh Atid, Blue and White), and left-wing parties (Labor, Mertez), and each bloc will have veto power. The new government, for the first time in Israeli history, also includes an Arab Islamist party, Raam.

"We are at the beginning of a new day," Bennett said after a brief Cabinet meeting Sunday night. But to make sure the government succeeds, "we must all maintain restraint and moderation in ideological terms."