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After first week in power, Bennett calls for Israelis to unite behind him

Prime minister urges opponents to put differences aside and work for good of the nation: ‘This country belongs to all of us’

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, left, with Minister of Communications Yoaz Hendel during a swearing-in ceremony of new Knesset members in Jerusalem, June 16, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, left, with Minister of Communications Yoaz Hendel during a swearing-in ceremony of new Knesset members in Jerusalem, June 16, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett ended his first week in office on Friday with a plea to the people of Israel to unite and work for the common good.

His call comes after a stormy week in which the former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his Likud party and their ultra-Orthodox allies repeatedly tried to assail the legitimacy of the Bennett government.

“I appeal to you, citizens of Israel, this country belongs to all of us. This fact doesn’t change due to the make-up of the government of the identity of the prime minister,” he wrote in a Facebook post.

“We have a great nation, and we are all obligated and responsible for worrying about the country. It is forbidden to let political disputes and tribal divisions erode all of our basic concerns for the State of Israel,” he wrote. “I hope and pray that we can all do good things for our people, for our country.”

Bennett was repeatedly heckled as he gave his maiden speech to the Knesset on Sunday, while Netanyahu used his final speech as prime minister of Israel to unleash his fury on Bennett and vowed to work tirelessly to topple the new coalition.

“I will fight daily against this terrible, dangerous left-wing government in order to topple it,” Netanyahu said at the conclusion of his lengthy speech in the Knesset plenum. “With God’s help, it will happen a lot earlier than you think it will.”

He labeled Bennett’s Yamina party and the New Hope party as “fake right” and accused them of betraying the will of the voters in joining a government with centrist, left-wing and Arab parties.

Meanwhile, the ultra-Orthodox parties have branded Bennett as “wicked” and claimed his new government’s policies would endanger the Jewish state.

Bennett, who is Israel’s first Orthodox prime minister, dismissed the attack as embarrassing and unhinged, a “hysterical outburst,” and vowed he would safeguard religious life in the country.

There have also been frequent protests outside the homes of members of his Yamina party, with opponents accusing them of misleading the electorate by promising not to form an alliance with Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid.

Likud supporters protest the change bloc coalition outside Ayelet Shaked’s home in Tel Aviv on May 30, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

During the first week in office, the opposition parties refused to vote with the government on the extension of a law barring citizenship for Palestinians who marry Israeli citizens, even though they support the move.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz urged Netanyahu to stop playing petty political games.

“This law is essential for safeguarding the country’s security and Jewish and democratic character, and security considerations need to be put before all political considerations,” Gantz said in a statement. “Even in difficult times politically, we put Israel before everything.”

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