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Bennett: Never in a thousand years did I imagine leading this government

Nearly a year after ousting Netanyahu, PM hails disparate makeup of coalition after losing Knesset majority, says ‘everybody wants the good of the country’

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (L) and President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attend an event for outstanding soldiers, as part of Israel's 74th Independence Day celebrations, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, on May 5, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (L) and President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attend an event for outstanding soldiers, as part of Israel's 74th Independence Day celebrations, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, on May 5, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Thursday touted the disparate ruling coalition, stressing the theme of unity as Israelis marked the country’s 74th Independence Day.

“I head a government that I never imagined in a thousand years would have this composition,” he said during an event at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem. “Everybody wants the good of the country.”

The current government, which ranges from Bennett’s nationalist Yamina party to the staunchly left-wing Meretz and the Islamist Ra’am, was formed last June after former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies again failed to secure a parliamentary majority following the fourth elections in two years.

Acknowledging the government’s divides, Bennett insisted they were a plus and not a detriment.

“A culture of disagreement is a blessing… If we have goodwill and don’t cast doubt on each other’s intentions, then we argue about the crux of the matter,” he said.

“The left is no less patriotic than the right and the right is no less desirous of peace and human rights than the left,” the premier added.

His comments came as the coalition finds itself on life support after a Yamina lawmaker defected to join the opposition, depriving the government of its narrow majority in the Knesset. Since then, Ra’am has suspended its membership in the coalition to protest Israel’s response to tensions at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, in a further blow to the government’s stability.

Despite the government’s lack of a majority, there is no clear constellation of lawmakers that could replace the coalition, which could limp on until new elections are called.

During the ceremony, Bennett also joked when asked if his time at the Prime Minister’s Office has changed how he views “the complicated puzzle of Israeliness.”

“Nothing is happening in the country. Everything is calm,” he cracked, as the audience laughed. “Everything is going too smoothly.”

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