By Spy Uganda Correspondent
A motley alliance of Israeli parties on Sunday ended Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12 straight years as Prime Minister, as Parliament voted in a new government led by his former ally, right-wing Jewish nationalist Naftali Bennett who vowed to punish Netanyahu whom they identified as (Crime Minister) for his corruption record.
In a seismic shift in the country’s turbulent politics, Mr. Bennett, a tech millionaire and former special forces commander, was sworn in at the helm of an ideologically divided eight-party bloc united only by disdain for the country’s longest-serving Prime Minister.
Mr. Netanyahu, 71, in typically combative style, vowed shortly before his defeat that “if it’s our destiny to be in the opposition, we’ll do so with our heads high until we take down this bad government and return to lead the country our way”.
Beloved as “King Bibi” and “Mr. Security” by his right-wing supporters and condemned as the “crime minister” by his critics, Mr. Netanyahu has long been the dominant figure in Israeli politics.
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.
U.S. Congratulates New PM
U.S. President Joe Biden swiftly congratulated Mr. Bennett.
“I look forward to working with Prime Minister Bennett to strengthen all aspects of the close and enduring relationship between our two nations. Israel has no better friend than the United States,” he said in a statement.
Delighted revellers packed a square near the Knesset (parliament) in Jerusalem and poured into Tel Aviv’s city centre to celebrate Mr. Netanyahu’s fall.
Throngs of people gathered in the coastal city, clapping, cheering and waving flags.
In Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, Mr. Netanyahu’s opponents launched into celebrations, waving “Bye bye Bibi” placards.
Mr. Netanyahu, who is battling corruption charges in a trial he dismisses as a conspiracy, has been the dominant Israeli politician of his generation, having also served a previous three-year term in the 1990s.
His supporters have hailed him as a defender of Israel who has been tough on arch-foe Iran but also struck a series of historic normalisation deals with Arab nations last year.
Being ousted from the top job leaves Mr. Netanyahu more exposed to his legal woes, denying him the chance to push through legislation that could give him immunity.
Mr. Bennett, a former defence minister under Mr. 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.
Mr. Netanyahu claimed Iran saw “celebrating” the birth of a “dangerous”, weak left-wing government.