Biden welcomes new Israeli government, reaffirms security support

Biden welcomes new Israeli government, reaffirms security support

The driving force behind the coalition is Yair Lapid, a political centrist who will become prime minister in two years, if the government lasts that long.

Israel's Parliament, the Knesset, approved the new government by just a single vote - 60 to 59, with one abstention.

The country's deep divisions were on vivid display as Bennett addressed parliament ahead of the vote.

Netanyahu's bombastic remarks as he has seen his grip on power slip have drawn parallels at home and overseas to former USA president Donald Trump, who described his election loss a year ago as the result of a rigged vote. After its ratification, the new cabinet will be sworn in.

After his supporters cheered the announcement of his election, Naftali Bennett then exchanged a brief handshake with Mr. Netanyahu before walking to the rostrum at the front of the parliamentary chamber and taking the oath of office as prime minister.

They will head a government comprising parties from across the political spectrum, including for the first time one that represents Israel's 21% Arab minority.

Bennett said his government would promote economic steps toward the Palestinians but any violence by Palestinians would be met by a strong response.

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Bennett doesn't have the worldwide standing, credibility or capability to "truly object" to the nuclear deal with Iran, Netanyahu said.

With little to no prospect of progress toward resolving the decades-long conflict with Israel, many Palestinians will be unmoved by the change of administration, saying Bennett will likely pursue the same right-wing agenda as Netanyahu.

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". "Israel is not party to the agreement and will maintain full freedom to act", he said. "Each was right, yet with all their being right, they burnt the house down on top of us", Bennett said.

"The government will make an effort to deepen and enhance our relations with both parties - bipartisan", Bennett said.

Each leader will hold a term of two years over the next four years. Those votes focused largely on Netanyahu's divisive rule and his fitness to remain in office while on trial for corruption charges.

He accused Bennett of "fraud" for siding with rivals. His supporters are angered by what they see as Israel turning its back on a leader dedicated to its security and a bulwark against worldwide pressure for any steps that could lead to a Palestinian state, even as he clinched diplomatic deals with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.

The ex-defense minister wavered over his decision during the fighting with Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip last month, but eventually decided Netanyahu didn't have enough seats to form a right-wing government and avoid yet another round of balloting, ultimately birthing the most unlikely government in Israel's history. It was decided the leadership role would be shared between two separate party leaders.

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