The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they happen, with the Knesset voting in Israel’s 36th Government.
A momentous morning for Israel, as the country is set to swear in its first government in 12 years not led by Benjamin Netanyahu.
A quick rundown of the day’s planned events:
2 p.m. — Prime Minister-designate Naftali Bennett will meet with the leaders of the “change bloc” coalition parties. The meeting will take place in the Yamina party’s faction room in the Knesset and will be closed to the press.
3 p.m. — The parties slated to enter the coalition will meet individually.
4 p.m. — The Knesset convenes. Bennett and partner Yair Lapid will present the government and its guiding principles. Netanyahu, the prospective leader of the opposition, is also expected to speak. All party representatives will have an opportunity to speak. Parliament will then vote on the new government.
Following the session, members of the newly installed government will head to the President’s Residence for the traditional group photograph of ministers with outgoing President Reuven Rivlin, who will end his seven-year term on July 9.
8:30 p.m. — A celebratory meeting, closed to the press, will be held in the Knesset’s Chagall Hall.
9 p.m. — A celebratory inaugural cabinet meeting will be held in the Knesset’s Jerusalem hall at 9 p.m., and will be open to the press.
For anyone who’s missed it, the day of the new government’s planned inaugurations had already begun with a bit of drama, as a disgruntled Yisrael Beytenu MK, Eli Avidar, unhappy with the post he was offered in the coalition, announces he will no longer be bound to the party after the coalition is installed.
However, he stresses that he will vote to approve the new government.
With the coalition expected to have a razor-thin majority in parliament of 61-59, actions such as Avidar’s are certain to worry the leaders of the change bloc.
The Regional Cooperation Ministry is an entirely unnecessary one that “should have been closed long ago,” according to Regional Cooperation Minister Ofir Akunis.
Hours before he is set to leave the job he’s held since mid-2020, Akunis notes in conversation with Army Radio that the ministry was formed in 1999 as compensation for Shimon Peres by then-prime minister Ehud Barak, after the former did not receive the position of foreign minister.
“I would have expected a so-called change government not to establish or maintain offices they believe should be closed,” he adds.
Asked why he served as head of a ministry he believed should not exist, Akunis says he voiced his position “in internal forums.”
The position is slated to be held by Issawi Frej (Meretz) in the government slated to be sworn in today.
Benjamin Netanyahu tweets a message to his rivals this morning.
Noting that today is the Hebrew anniversary of the death of Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Netanyahu writes, “I am reminded of comments made to me by the rabbi of Lubavitch: ‘You will need to fight with 119 people, but you will certainly not be impressed by this as God is on this side. A blessing and success [to you]. God will give a blessing and success.'”
ג׳ תמוז ואני נזכר בדברים שאמר לי הרבי מליובאוויטש: ״אתה תצטרך להיאבק עם 119 אנשים, בוודאי לא תתרשם מזה כיוון שהקב״ה בצד הזה. ברכה והצלחה, נתינה של הקב״ה ברכה והצלחה״. pic.twitter.com/FvhbtRjHk9
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) June 13, 2021
Incoming Foreign Minister Yair Lapid tweets simply: “A morning of change.”
Singer Britney Spears has shared a photo of a Hebrew tattoo on the back of her neck, which she calls her “favorite.”
The tattoo is of the letters Mem, He, Shin, which Spears says “means healing.”
Indeed it does, according to the Kabbalah. On KabbalahInsights.com, the letter combination is described as “a powerful amulet that will help generate good health, neutralize all sorts of illness, cure the body and soul, protect from pain, chronic fatigue and malfunction, induce cleansing and strengthen mental health.”
Joint List MK Sami Abu Shehadeh attacks Ra’am party leader Mansour Abbas for joining the new government, telling Ynet he will be helping to “deepen the occupation.”
“If someone wants to make Jerusalem or the Galilee Jewish it’s the same policy. Whether an Arab or a Jew does it is irrelevant.”
He says Abbas “has knowingly joined a government whose basic principles are opposed to everything he long believed in.”
More drama from the Knesset: There are media reports that Ra’am MK Said al-Harumi is threatening not to vote in favor of the new government.
With the prospective coalition enjoying only a 61-seat majority in the 120-seat Knesset, every vote is crucial today.
Al-Harumi is reportedly citing planned demolitions of illegal Arab structures in the Negev on Wednesday. He is unhappy with the coalition deal’s plans for handling illegal Negev construction and wants a freeze on all demolitions, Channel 12 reports.
According to Kan news, Ra’am chief Mansour Abbas responds that “it will be alright.”
Likud has identified him as a weak link in Ra’am and is putting pressure on him to oppose the new government, according to Ynet, and has offered him various benefits if he does not vote in favor.
Meanwhile, MK Emilie Moatti of Labor is hospitalized to undergo a spinal tap, but will arrive for the vote while under treatment.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister-designate Naftali Bennett tweets a photo of himself praying with tefillin ahead of his expected swearing-in as prime minister. We assume the photo is from today.
יְבָרֶכְךָ ה' וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ
יָאֵר ה' פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וִיחֻנֶּךָּ
יִשָּׂא ה' פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם. pic.twitter.com/ISij7TgvPC
— Naftali Bennett בנט (@naftalibennett) June 13, 2021
He quotes from the priestly benediction: “May God bless thee, and keep thee; may God make His face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee; may God lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.”
Meretz MK Issawi Frej, the incoming regional cooperation minister, says he has no need to meet with outgoing minister Ofir Akunis for an orderly transfer of responsibilities after the latter said today the ministry is unnecessary.
“I understand Akunis suddenly remembered today that that Regional Cooperation Ministry, which he led until today, is actually superfluous,” Frej tweets.
“If so, it seems it will also be unnecessary for us to meet, as there is no point in a handover with a person who says his job was unnecessary.”
Sources familiar with the nomination process tell the Times of Israel that two army brigadier generals are candidates to be the prime minister’s military secretary in the new government.
One is Brig. Gen. Avi Gil, currently the head of the Training Division in the Operations Division and prior to that commander of 340th Idan Armored Division and 36th Armored Division.
The second is Brig. Gen. Shlomi Binder, the current commander of the 91st Galilee Division and a former commander of the elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit.
Religious Zionism’s far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir has been lightly injured in a car crash in the north.
Ben Gvir refuses to be taken to a hospital, as he does not wish to miss today’s Knesset vote on the new government — a vote in which he plans to cast an emphatic “no.”
The Ra’am faction will convene at 1 p.m. to discuss Said al-Harumi’s threat not to vote for the new government.
Channel 12 reports that sources in the party have told Bennett the situation is “under control.”
Bennett’s office says his message to the US during his planned address to the Knesset today will be “positive and one of cooperation.”
He will thank US President Joe Biden for his support of Israel during the recent Gaza operation.
However, Bennett, like Netanyahu before him, will voice staunch opposition to a return to the Iran nuclear deal.
Israeli rhythmic gymnast Linoy Ashram scores a slew of medals within a few hours, winning a gold, two silvers, and a bronze at the European Championships in Rhythmic Gymnastics held in Varna, Bulgaria.
Linoy takes the gold in the clubs exercise with a top score of 28.500 points, wins silvers in the ball and hoop exercises — and a bronze alongside the rest of the Israeli team in the overall group competition.
In the ribbon exercise, Linoy finished fourth.
The Israeli team is to compete later in the day in group events with two routines, one with balls and another with both hoops and clubs.
United Torah Judaism party chief Moshe Gafni tells Kan Bet Radio that Benjamin Netanyahu stepping aside to let a different Likud candidate form a government “may have been the right thing to do.”
But he adds that he could not demand of “a party with 30 seats” to switch out its chosen leader and vows to remain loyal to Likud’s path, even if that means staying in the opposition.
“Likud decided what it decided,” he says.
After reports he may not back the government at today’s Knesset vote, Ra’am’s Said al-Harumi tells Channel 12 news: “There will be a government today.”
He does not, however, answer how he will vote at the plenum.
He denies reports there has been pressure on him from Likud to vote against the new coalition.
According to Channel 12 news, Bennett will appeal to the Haredi public tonight in his speech, and tell them the government is committed to them despite the fact that their leaders have decided to remain outside the coalition.
He will speak of plans to aid Haredim on issues of employment and housing.
The heads of the eight parties making up the new coalition are set to start their meeting now, at 2 p.m., ahead of the Knesset session to vote on the new government at 4 p.m.
Both Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid and Ra’am’s Mansour Abbas tell television reporters that “there will be a government” as they enter the meeting of coalition party leaders.
Some homes in the Jerusalem suburb of Mevasseret Zion are being evacuated due to a nearby fire.
Firefighting teams are working to douse the blaze.
מבשרת ציון🔥👇 pic.twitter.com/OYD9mi0rI2
— Real News IL (@RealNewsIL) June 13, 2021
In his speech later, Bennett is also expected to speak of Israelis held by Hamas in Gaza. Hamas holds two Israeli civilians captive — Hisham al-Sayed and Avera Mengistu — as well as the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul.
He will voice a commitment to bringing the four back, and say he sees their return as “a sacred obligation.”
The fire near Mevaseret Zion has now caused the closure of Route 1 from Mevaseret eastward to Jerusalem.
In the media there is speculation that the blockage could delay the government’s swearing-in, if MKs are prevented from reaching the capital.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) June 13, 2021
Haredi lawmakers intend to make the new government’s swearing-in a stormy one, Channel 12 reports.
MKs are considering staging a walkout during the vote and/or heckling speakers from the prospective coalition as they seek to paint the government as illegitimate over what they claim are its plans to change the religious status quo in the country.
Channel 12’s Amit Segal reports that three MKs — Yesh Atid’s Meirav Ben-Ari, Meretz’s Issawi Frej and Likud’s Keren Barak — were extracted from traffic by police on Route 1 to bring them to the Knesset for today’s vote.
Route 1 has been closed off due to a fire near the highway.
Channel 12’s Daphna Liel shares a photo of Naftali Bennett and close ally Ayelet Shaked as they go over his speech for today, shortly before the plenum gathers to confirm the new government.
The Knesset plenum is now convened to confirm the formation of the new “change government” led by Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid.
The session can be watched live, in Hebrew, here.
Naftali Bennett is heckled repeatedly by members of the right as he attempts to begin his speech at the plenum.
Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin repeatedly attempts to silence hecklers and orders several lawmakers removed from the plenum.
Bennett thanks Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu. “You both sacrificed a great deal for the State of Israel.”
He can barely manage a few sentences at a time before Likud MKs shout him down.
Here is a photo of Religious Zionism head Bezalel Smotrich screaming in the plenum before being ousted.
Likud and Haredi MKs continue to shout at Bennett that he is “a criminal” and a “liar” as Bennett raises his voice to talk over them.
He says the MKs are providing proof for the urgent need to bring back decency and unity to Israeli politics.
“I am proud of the ability to sit with people with very different opinions,” he booms. “At the decisive moment we took responsibility.”
The alternative to this government was more elections, more hate, which would have broken up the country, he says.
“It is time for responsible leaders from different parts of the nation to stop this madness,” he says.
Reacting to the ongoing shouting in parliament, Bennett says: “We are facing an internal challenge, a divide in the people that is being seen at these very moments.”
That divide “has led us to a storm of hatred and a clash of brothers, to the country being paralyzed.”
He speaks of various social and regulatory reforms his government plans to enact, on legal, social and religious matters.
“We will open a new chapter in relations with Arab citizens,” Bennett says.
He says he “must give Prime Minister Netanyahu credit” for “paving the road” to cooperation with Mansour Abbas and Ra’am, as Likud MKs shout their protest. This is ostensibly said earnestly but there is little doubt that it is meant as a jibe. Netanyahu attempted to get Ra’am to back his own government, not Bennett’s.
“We understand the difficulties and needs of the Arab public,” he says, vowing to improve education, security and housing for Arabs.
On Iran, Bennett says the Iranian nuclear program “is approaching a critical point.”
“Israel will not allow Iran to attain nuclear weapons. Israel is not a party to the [international nuclear] deal and will maintain full freedom to act.”
In a message to Washington, he adds: “Renewing the nuclear deal is a mistake.”
The prime minister-designate promises that Haredim have nothing to fear from his government. He says it will respect Torah studies and work to ease their problems.
“A state commission of inquiry into the Meron disaster will be formed,” he says.
“We’ve come to work for everybody,” he says. “We will look over the Torah that looked over us in the Diaspora.”
He says his government will seek to remove blockages that prevented Haredim from integrating in the public.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid forgoes his prepared speech to the Knesset, instead reprimanding right-wing opposition to the new government for the nonstop heckling of Bennett.
“I’m skipping the speech I planned to deliver today because I’m here to say one thing – to ask for forgiveness from my mother,” he says at the podium. “My mother is 86 years old and we don’t ask her to come to Jerusalem lightly. But we did it because I assumed that you would be able to get over yourselves and behave with statesmanship at this moment, and she would see a smooth transition of government,” he says to the rowdy plenum.
“When she was born, there was no State of Israel, Tel Aviv was a small town of 30,000 people and we didn’t have a parliament. I wanted her to be proud of the democratic process in Israel. Instead she, along with every citizen of Israel, is ashamed of you and remembers clearly why it’s time to replace you. Thank you.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu begins his speech in the Knesset.
“I stand here on behalf of the million Israelis… who voted for Likud under my leadership, and the other million Israelis who voted for right-wing parties with the knowledge they would join a government headed by me. In their honor, and on their behalf, I intend to continue the mission of my life: to ensure the security and flourishing of the State of Israel,” says Netanyahu.
Netanyahu recaps his achievements, from ensuring Israel becomes the first vaccinated country, to opposing Iran’s development of nuclear weapons, to the Abraham Accords, to the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
“It was my honor to work night and day for our beloved country,” says Netanyahu.
Unlike Bennett’s speech, Netanyahu’s comments are met mostly with silence in the plenum.
Netanyahu also notes Israel’s relative security under his leadership, calling it “the best decade for security we’ve ever had.”
“This didn’t happen by chance. This came because we set a different security policy… which exacted a very high price from our enemies, while avoiding recklessness and impulsivity,” says Netanyahu.
“If we are destined to be in the opposition, we will do it with our heads held high until we bring down this dangerous government,” he says.
Netanyahu mocks Bennett’s pledges to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, saying the Yamina leader has shown he doesn’t keep his promises. Bennett will “fight Iran like he won’t sit” in a government with Lapid and other left-wing parties, says Netanyahu.
The prime minister says the new US administration asked him not to speak publicly about their differences on the Iran nuclear deal. But Netanyahu says he won’t be silent in the face of the “existential threat.”
On Bennett, says Netanyahu: “He doesn’t have the global standing. He doesn’t have the credibility. He doesn’t have the ability and he doesn’t” have the support of his own divided government.
“The prime minister of Israel must be able to say no to the American government” on issues that threaten Israel,” says Netanyahu, adding that Bennett won’t be able to withstand the pressure.
“Who will do this now?”
Netanyahu says Iran is “celebrating” because Israel now has a “weak government.”
“From the moment the US returns to the nuclear deal with Iran, the incoming government won’t approve significant operations in Iran,” says Netanyahu. “A government that is not able to forcefully oppose the international community on the pressing issues for our fate is not worthy of leading Israel.”
Netanyahu says the Biden administration is demanding a settlement freeze in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and has begun pushing for peace talks.
“How will we fight the establishment of a Palestinian state when a majority of the government supports it?” says Netanyahu.
Netanyahu notes he’s returned to power from the opposition twice before.
He says his governments had been “forced” to undo the previous governments’ economic policies and will do so again if it returns to power in the future.
He accuses Bennett of perpetrating the “greatest fraud since in Israel’s history,” noting the right-wing leader had ruled out a government with Lapid before the election.
“The public won’t forget this tremendous fraud,” says Netanyahu.
The prime minister says the press will praise Bennett because they know “Bennett and his allies are ‘fake right.'”
Netanyahu hails Yamina MK Amichai Chikli for breaking with his party to oppose the new government.
“He’s not the defector. You, Yamina MKs, are the defectors,” he says.
Netanyahu also says Bennett is setting a precedent under which a party leader with a mere six seats can be crowned premier, “a prime minister who stands at the head of a pin.”
Netanyahu criticizes incoming finance minister Avigdor Liberman for vowing to dump him and the ultra-Orthodox parties in a “landfill.”
“From your perspective, criticism from the right is always incitement,” while critiques from the left are “freedom of speech,” says Netanyahu.
“You won’t silence” Likud voters, the Haredim and the right, adds Netanyahu.
“And you won’t silence me,” he says, adding that his family has been victim of unprecedented “incitement” and defamation.
Netanyahu vows he’ll be back in power soon.
Residents of the Adora settlement in the southern West Bank are being evacuated from their homes as a wildfire rages in the area, according to Army Radio.
There are no immediate reports of injuries or damage.
— שחר גליק (@glick_sh) June 13, 2021
A spokesperson for Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid releases the full text of the speech he didn’t give in the Knesset earlier. Lapid decided to forgo the address after right-wing lawmakers heckled Prime Minister-designate Bennett relentlessly.
Below are some excerpts of his prepared remarks:
“In a democratic country, governments rise and fall. A generation goes and a generation comes. That is the natural order of things. This is a complicated coalition, maybe the most complicated in the country’s history, but the reason for its creation is actually simple: It’s time. It’s time. It’s even a little late. This change is unavoidable because time doesn’t stop. It’s time to change the operating system, it’s time for a change of generation.
“But before we look to the future, we have another task – we need to find a way to forgive one another for the past. Hate is a prison, and forgiveness is the way out.
“I look at the past few years in the life of this country; the protests, the anger, the terrible things that have been said in this hall. I don’t want to be held hostage to those years. In the past six years, I have sat in the opposition. Much of that time, I have been angry at the way the government treated us. The solution is not to treat them the same way. The solution is to behave differently.
“I want to say to the opposition from this podium – our door will be open to you. We know that the public that voted for you has real needs. We won’t agree on everything, but we will always listen.”
The speech would have continued:
“After all the insults and the warnings, the real divide in Israeli society isn’t between left and right. The real divide is between moderates and extremists. Those who want to build and those who want to destroy.
“We will not let the extremists destroy the State of Israel. We will not let hate control us. Violent racists don’t become patriots just because they wrap themselves in a flag. They will not define for us what it means to love Israel.
“We are not enemies. Even the most strident opinions, even the most heated arguments, will not turn us into enemies. We will not let extremists destroy our ability to speak to one another and to work together for the good of the country.”
Shas leader Aryeh Deri accuses incoming prime minister Naftali Bennett of tricking his voters by allying with centrist, left-wing and Islamist parties.
“Naftali Bennett, what contempt and cynicism,” laments Deri during his speech in the plenum.
“This is a fraud, one of the greatest frauds,” he says, echoing Netanyahu.
United Torah Judaism leader Moshe Gafni laces into the new coalition for its proposed reforms on religion and state.
“In what way are you Jews?” he shouts in the plenum.
“Not Shabbat, not conversion… nothing,” he says, repeatedly chanting: “In what way are you Jewish?”
“How is this state Jewish? How is it different from France?”
In a fiery speech full of biblical references, Religious Zionism leader Betzalel Smotrich rips into the incoming government as disdainful of Judaism.
“This is a government of hatred and boycotts,” he says, adding that “the only glue is jealousy and hatred,” the “lust for power,” and disdain for the Torah.
Smotrich characterizes the new coalition as an “Israeli government that leaves out the Jews.” He says it’s “not a Jewish state,” but rather one dependent on “terror supporters,” in a reference to the Islamist Ra’am party.
“This is a government of the desecration of God’s name,” he says.
“This won’t be forgiven.”
Joint List leader Ayman Odeh says that after today, Israel will be “freed of the doctrine of ‘yes Bibi’ or ‘no Bibi,'” underlining that the Likud leader Netanyahu will be shunted to the opposition.
Nonetheless, “This is a bad government,” he says, noting that the interior minister will be “extreme right-wing” Ayelet Shaked and the finance minister “extreme right-wing” Avigdor Liberman.
Odeh claims the new government will harm Arabs in Jerusalem and the Negev and does not represent any sort of ideal of Jewish-Arab cooperation due to its inclusion of Ra’am.
“We are looking for a different Jewish-Arab partnership” based on peace and social equality, he says.
Most of the Joint List will vote against the government.
The head of the Ta’al faction within the Joint List, which has two lawmakers, announces it’ll support Yesh Atid MK Mickey Levy for Knesset speaker in the vote later today.
But MK Ahmad Tibi doesn’t say whether they’ll vote against the new incoming government or abstain.
Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas addresses the Knesset in Arabic, ahead of his entry into the governing coalition.
Before beginning his speech, Likud MK Shlomo Karhi urges him to reveal his agreements with the new coalition.
“I’m not sure you want me to reveal the contacts that I’ve had,” quips Abbas, referring to talks with Likud’s Netanyahu.
Ra’am’s Abbas dismisses criticism of the incoming government for promising him generous funding for Arab communities in the Negev as part of the coalition agreements.
“We want all the parties to think differently. No one sold the Negev to Ra’am. The Negev remains in Israel, its residents are citizens of Israel,” he says.
Abbas says it’s time for both the incoming Israeli government and opposition to advance Jewish-Arab “dialogue, so that we understand each other and not view each other as enemies.”
“We belong to other nations, to other religions, to other communities. There is something that connects all Israelis and that’s our citizenship,” he says, adding that he hopes to bolster Jewish-Arab ties in Israel further.
A prayer rally at the Western Wall against the incoming government draws hundreds of religious Zionist and ultra-Orthodox Jews.
The service is being led by Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu.
Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi says the new government will be even more right-wing than the coalition it is replacing.
“Something good is happening today,” namely Benjamin Netanyahu’s removal from power, following years of his “division and hatred” directed at Arab Israelis, says Tibi.
“But the alternative is right-wing, even more right-wing. I heard the prime minister designate, and he spoke about strengthening the settlements. He spoke about regulation and sovereignty in the Negev,” he says, adding that Arab Israelis know those words are euphemisms for plans that will harm the Bedouin communities in southern Israel.
“This government is a government that can’t be supported. Its guidelines are most problematic. It doesn’t freeze the Kaminitz law [on illegal construction]. It doesn’t stop the demolitions in the Negev,” says Tibi.
Tibi adds that he is worried about the right-wing “Flag March” set for the Old City on Tuesday, which could inflame tensions, and the looming evictions of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah under a court order.
Ra’am MK Saeed al-Harumi is still mulling whether to support the new government or abstain, the Kan public broadcaster reports, adding that lawmakers from Yesh Atid and his Islamist party are pressuring him to back the coalition.
If al-Harumi were to abstain during the swearing-in vote, there would still be enough Knesset members — 60 in favor to 59 opposed — to approve the government. But a vote by al-Harumi against the government could deny it the majority needed to be sworn in, unless some lawmakers from the majority Arab Joint List decide to abstain, rather than oppose the coalition.
Earlier, al-Harumi said that “there will be a government formed today,” although the lawmaker refused to answer questions on how he planned to vote.
Prime Minister-designate Naftali Bennett will retain Brig. Gen. Avi Blot in his role as military secretary for the time being. National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat will also stay in office until after his successor is appointed to ensure a smooth transition. Both top officials were appointed by Benjamin Netanyahu.
Bennett will meet with Blot and Ben-Shabbat later this evening for his first security briefing as premier.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz says the new Israeli government will continue to oppose the US reentry into the Iran nuclear deal — but discreetly.
He criticizes Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks openly clashing with the Biden administration on Iran.
“We will continue to work with the administration and strengthen our ties so that Iran will not obtain nuclear weapons. We will influence them so that the deal, if it is signed, will set Iran back,” says Gantz.
“Obviously, we will oppose a bad deal… but we will do it in the proper forum and with the appropriate means, and not from the Knesset podium,” says Gantz.
He says Israel will retain the option of carrying out a military strike on Iran.
Gantz, formerly Netanyahu’s coalition partner, thanks him for his contributions to Israel despite the bad blood between them.
“We’ll take it from here,” says Gantz.
The Knesset is set to begin its vote to swear in a new parliament speaker. Yesh Atid’s Mickey Levy is the new government’s candidate.
Shas nominates its lawmaker Yaakov Margi.
Yesh Atid MK Mickey Levy is appointed the new Knesset speaker, replacing Likud’s Yariv Levin, after winning 67 of the parliament’s 120 votes.
His rival, Shas lawmaker Yaakov Margi, picks up 52 votes.
Levy will now preside over the confidence vote in the new Bennett-Lapid government, which will begin shortly.
Outgoing Knesset speaker Yariv Levin of Likud warmly embraces his successor, Yesh Atid’s Mickey Levy, earning strong applause in the plenum.
Levin wishes him luck in the position.
Levy forgoes his speech and will move along with the confidence vote in the new Knesset, since one of the lawmakers came directly from the hospital to vote.
The Knesset begins its confidence vote to swear in the new Bennett-Lapid government.
The Knesset swears in the 36th government, appointing the right-wing Naftali Bennett the next prime minister and removing Benjamin Netanyahu from power after 12 consecutive years.
The so-called “change government” is approved with 60 of the Knesset’s 120 lawmakers in favor and 59 opposed. It does not require the backing of 61 lawmakers to be sworn in, rather a simply majority.
Ra’am MK Saeed al-Harumi abstains.
Cheers erupt in the Knesset chamber as Naftali Bennett becomes prime minister and a new government is sworn in, nearly three months after the last election.
A defeated Netanyahu is surrounded by his former coalition partners, who shake his hand.
Netanyahu offers a brief handshake to Israel’s new prime minister, Naftali Bennett.
The new opposition leader and former premier is wearing a face mask in the plenum, making his facial expressions inscrutable.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett stands at the Knesset plenum and vows to “maintain allegiance to the State of Israel and its laws, to faithfully fulfill my role as prime minister/a member of the government and to uphold Knesset resolutions.”
He is followed by Yair Lapid, the alternate prime minister and foreign minister.
The rest of the cabinet members will follow individually, in alphabetical order.
Thousands of people are celebrating the new government in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv.
The municipality building lights up in the colors of Israel’s flag for the occasion.
כיכר רבין pic.twitter.com/MZHf2d77gl
— Yigal Mosko (@igalmosko) June 13, 2021
כיכר רבין צהלה ושמחה 🇮🇱🎊💙 pic.twitter.com/FuzzMvCWtP
— Shmulik💙🇮🇱 מיוני (@shmulikmioni) June 13, 2021
Separately, outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, hundreds hold a pro-Netanyahu rally.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) June 13, 2021
US President Joe Biden congratulates Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and says he is looking forward to working with him.
“On behalf of the American people, I congratulate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and all the members of the new Israeli cabinet. I look forward to working with Prime Minister Bennett to strengthen all aspects of the close and enduring relationship between our two nations,” says Biden.
“Israel has no better friend than the United States. The bond that unites our people is evidence of our shared values and decades of close cooperation, and as we continue to strengthen our partnership, the United States remains unwavering in its support for Israel’s security. My administration is fully committed to working with the new Israeli government to advance security, stability, and peace for Israelis, Palestinians, and people throughout the broader region.”
The new government is breaking some new ground in Israel’s history, as its premier Naftali Bennett becomes the first kippa-wearing Orthodox prime minister and the Ra’am party becomes the first Arab Israeli faction to join a governing coalition.
A record-breaking nine women hold ministerial portfolios in the new government, including some of the most influential ones: transportation minister Merav Michaeli (Labor), interior minister Ayelet Shaked (Yamina), education minister Yifat Shasha-Biton (New Hope), economy minister Orna Barbivai (Yesh Atid), energy minister Karine Elharrar (Yesh Atid), social equality minister Merav Cohen (Yesh Atid), immigrant absorption minister Pnina Tamano-Shata (Blue and White), environmental protection minister Tamar Zandberg (Meretz), science minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen (Blue and White).
Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu will hold a meeting with the new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Monday to hand over the reins of the premiership, his office says.
The meeting will take place at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.
Palestinian factions in the West Bank and Gaza say they see little difference between the exiting government of Benjamin Netanyahu and the new “change government” led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
Hamas, a terror group that rules the Gaza Strip, says Netanyahu’s departure will not end their attempts to destroy the Jewish state.
“No matter the form of the Israeli government, it will not change the nature of our dealings with [Israel]. It is a settlement occupation entity that must be resisted and from which our rights must be wrested by any and all forms of resistance, foremost of which is armed struggle,” says Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhum.
In Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry says in a statement that they expect to see few changes in Israeli policy towards the Palestinians under Bennett’s fragile eight-party coalition.
“This time, a government without Netanyahu was formed in Israel. However, it is inaccurate to call it a ‘government of change,’ unless one means to say that Netanyahu is no longer there. As for [the new government’s] policies, we estimate that will see no difference, or perhaps even worse ones, ” the Foreign Ministry says.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz congratulates Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid on the new government.
Congratulations to PM @naftalibennett and alternate PM @yairlapid for forming a government. I look forward to working with you. Austria is committed to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and will continue to stand by Israel‘s side.
— Sebastian Kurz (@sebastiankurz) June 13, 2021
New Hope ministers Ze’ev Elkin and Yoaz Hendel announce that they will be making use of a law that allows them to resign from their parliamentary duties to allow the next two lawmakers on the party list — Eilat Mayor Meir Yitzhak Halevi and former MK Zvi Hauser — to enter Knesset.
The Norwegian law allows any MK who is appointed to a cabinet post to resign temporarily from the Knesset, thereby permitting the next candidate on the party’s list to enter parliament in his or her stead.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett thanks US President Joe Biden for his congratulations.
“Thank you Mr. President! I look forward to working with you to strengthen the ties between our two nations,” he tweets.
Thank you Mr. President! I look forward to working with you to strengthen the ties between our two nations 🇮🇱🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/RNYPX4amGE
— Naftali Bennett בנט (@naftalibennett) June 13, 2021
Shirley Pinto of the Yamina party will become Israel’s first deaf Knesset member, as Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahane announces he will leave the parliament under the so-called Norwegian Law.
As next down on the party’s list, Pinto will enter the Knesset in his place.
Pinto is a long-time activist for disability-related issues, specifically those dealing with the hearing impaired, and serves as Yamina’s representative in the World Zionist Congress.
Labor MK Emilie Moatti came directly from the hospital to the Knesset to vote for the incoming government.
She is suffering from a spinal ailment — a rare infection after a routine medical check she underwent last week — and was unable to stand. Channel 12 publicizes a photo of the lawmaker.
תמונה מדהימה- אמלי מואטי מצביעה בשכיבה. בעקבות ניקור מותני יש לה תופעת לוואי נדירה של דליפה מעמוד השדרה שלא מאפשרת לה לעמוד (לשכתה אישרה את פרסום) pic.twitter.com/2NgUvQ2ibM
— דפנה ליאל (@DaphnaLiel) June 13, 2021
Newly elected Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy chose not to deliver his planned speech so that the government vote could be held right away, sparing Moatti any delay. She was taken back out of the chamber as soon as she had cast her vote. With the coalition winning the Knesset’s approval by the narrowest possible simple majority, 60-59, every vote was crucial.
The new Israeli government holds a festive first cabinet meeting.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett presides over the meeting, which is open to the press. He opens his remarks with the “Shehechiyanu” prayer of thanksgiving.
“We are at the start of new days,” he says, calling the establishment of a new government “a wonder.”
Bennett vows that the government will work to “mend the rift in the nation” after two years of political deadlock.
He says the new cabinet meetings will start on time on Sunday mornings, in an apparent criticism of Netanyahu, who was notoriously late for meetings. And he urges his ministers to show “restraint” over the numerous ideological differences between the disparate parties in the coalition to ensure its stability.
Lapid, sitting alongside Bennett, says “friendship and trust” were the foundation of the government and only “friendship and trust” will keep it in power.
Sitting on the sidelines is Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulates incoming Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett after an alliance of parties ousted Benjamin Netanyahu and formed a new government.
“Germany and Israel are connected by a unique friendship that we want to strengthen further. With this in mind, I look forward to working closely with you,” Merkel says in a message addressed to Bennett and shared by her spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer on Twitter.
World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder congratulates Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his alternate, Yair Lapid.
“I congratulate the leaders of Israel’s political parties who have come together to form a government of national unity that includes all sides of the Israeli political spectrum, from right to left, religious to secular. I am delighted that these efforts have now come to fruition and that this new government has been established,” he says in a statement.
“I know incoming Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and incoming Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and am confident that their partnership, together with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Avigdor Liberman, Gideon Sa’ar, Merav Michaeli, Nitzan Horowitz, Mansour Abbas, and their colleagues from their respective parties, will provide Israel with stability and the same spirit of unity the people of Israel demonstrated during the recent Israel-Hamas military conflict. The State of Israel must be a beacon of unity for the entire Jewish people, and I am confident that its new government will also help bring Diaspora Jewry together.”
Ministers and lawmakers have begun packing up their Knesset offices as the handover of power begins.
An Army Radio reporter tweets photos of Yair Lapid’s staff clearing out the parliament’s opposition leader office, to make way for Benjamin Netanyahu, who will be vacating his prime minister quarters for Bennett.
אורזים חפצים במשרד ראש האופוזיציה לפיד ומפנים מקום לאנשי נתניהו pic.twitter.com/8PInc5xg7q
— יובל שגב | Yuval Segev (@Segev_Yuval) June 13, 2021
Other Likud ministers, including Yuval Steinitz and Miri Regev, have also started packing up, Hebrew media reports say.
אורזים לשטייניץ. pic.twitter.com/zEzZS3TwE5
— Shirit Avitan Cohen (@Shiritc) June 13, 2021
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab congratulates Bennett and Lapid on the new government.
In a tweet, he says he looks forward to continued British-Israeli “cooperation on security, trade and climate change, and working together to secure peace in the region.”
Congratulations to @naftalibennett & @yairlapid on forming a new government in Israel. I look forward to continued 🇬🇧🇮🇱 cooperation on security, trade and climate change, and working together to secure peace in the region.
— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) June 13, 2021
National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat is giving Naftali Bennett a security briefing, his first as prime minister.
US President Joe Biden has called Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to congratulate him on forming an Israeli government.
The phone call comes around two hours after the government is sworn in.
Bennett thanks Biden for his support for Israel and its security.
“Prime Minister Bennett noted his appreciation for the president, and for his support for Israel during the recent operation in Gaza (Guardian of the Walls), and noted that he considers him a great friend of the State of Israel,” a statement from Bennett’s office says.
“In their conversation, the leaders emphasized the importance of the alliance between Israel and the United States, as well as their commitment to strengthening ties between the two countries, and maintaining the security of the State of Israel.”
The White House readout, however, also mentions Iran and the US intention to advance peace with the Palestinians.
“President Biden highlighted his decades of steadfast support for the US-Israel relationship and his unwavering commitment to Israel’s security. He expressed his firm intent to deepen cooperation between the United States and Israel on the many challenges and opportunities facing the region. The leaders agreed that they and their teams would consult closely on all matters related to regional security, including Iran,” it says.
“The president also conveyed that his administration intends to work closely with the Israeli government on efforts to advance peace, security, and prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians.”
Benjamin Netanyahu’s two sons, Yair and Avner, post messages of support for their father on social media, after he is removed from power.
“I love you and am so proud of you, Dad! One of the greatest leaders in Israel’s history,” tweets Yair Netanyahu.
כמה אני אוהב אותך וגאה בך אבא! אחד המנהיגים הדגולים בתולדות עם ישראל! ❤️ pic.twitter.com/zE0VhWMhIK
— Yair Netanyahu 🇮🇱 (@YairNetanyahu) June 13, 2021
“Couldn’t be more proud of you,” adds Avner.
אוהב אותך אבנר ❤️ pic.twitter.com/NS7uLKOkGq
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) June 13, 2021
Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks to his American counterpart, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, after being sworn in again following the formation of a new Israeli government.
“I greatly look forward to continuing the paramount work alongside Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin to protect the steadfast alliance between Israel and the US, the stability of the Middle East, and the safety of our peoples,” Gantz says after the call.
Benjamin Netanyahu has edited his Twitter bio to reflect that he’s “the head of the opposition and the leader of Likud.”
Naftali Bennett’s bio is swiftly revised to reflect that he is prime minister and leader of the Yamina party.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sends his congratulations to the new head of the Israeli government, Naftali Bennett, saying that he “looks forward” to working with him.
“Canada and Israel are close friends bound together by shared democratic values, a long history of cooperation, and vibrant people-to-people ties,” Trudeau says in a statement released by his office.
The prime minister reiterates that Ottawa “remains steadfast in its commitment to a two-state solution, with Israelis and Palestinians living in peace, security, and dignity – without fear and with their human rights respected.”
He also thanks former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had been in power for 12 years before being ousted on Sunday, “for his valuable partnership over the years, at a time when Canada and Israel achieved a great deal together.”
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson joins the chorus of congratulations for Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid.
“As we emerge from COVID-19, this is an exciting time for the UK and Israel to continue working together to advance peace and prosperity for all,” he tweets.
As we emerge from COVID-19, this is an exciting time for the UK and Israel to continue working together to advance peace and prosperity for all.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) June 13, 2021
US senators and lawmakers are also praising the new Israeli government coalition.
Congratulations to the Israeli people for their new government formed today, and to my friend @yairlapid for being appointed Foreign Minister. The diversity of the new coalition, uniting left and right, Jews and Arabs, is a testament to the vibrancy of Israel’s democracy. (1/2)
— Senator Jacky Rosen (@SenJackyRosen) June 13, 2021
Congratulations to Israel's new Prime Minister @naftalibennett
I look forward to working closely with him to prevent a nuclear Iran, to defend Israel’s sovereignty, and to strengthen the US-Israel friendship & alliance.
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) June 13, 2021
Congratulations to the people of Israel on the formation of a new coalition government, made up of a broad range of parties and representing many different views and communities. This diverse coalition is a testament to the resilience & vibrancy of Israel’s democratic system 1/4
— Rep. Ted Deutch (@RepTedDeutch) June 13, 2021
I look forward to working w @IsraeliPM Naftali Bennett, FM & Alt PM @yairlapid & the new govt on strengthening the U.S.-Israel alliance. I congratulate outgoing PM @netanyahu on 12 years of historic leadership, incl his work to advance the Abraham Accords & counter the Iran deal. https://t.co/vvJN58vIdv
— Senator Bill Hagerty (@SenatorHagerty) June 13, 2021
The North American Reform Jewish Movement welcomes the new Israeli government, led by Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid.
“As the largest Jewish movement in Diaspora life, we are hopeful that this new government, unprecedented in the ideological diversity of its members, will be able to implement many of the aspirations that PM Bennett laid out in his inaugural speech,” it says.
“We hope the government will renew ties with our movement in Israel and abroad, commit to furthering a pluralistic agenda, combat extremism and incitement — including through police enforcement against the horrific incidents of hatred and physical violence as seen on Friday at the Western Wall plaza — and be a government for all of Israel’s citizens. We also hope this government will reaffirm the importance of a strong US-Israel relationship, prioritizing bipartisan outreach and engagement.
“PM Naftali Bennett and his government will face formidable challenges in the coming days, weeks, and years, yet we are hopeful for a stable government that will lead with integrity and courage.
“We look forward to continuing our partnership and connections with the government of Israel – to work with political parties on the right and the left, and for all future opportunities to work together in building a more pluralistic, tolerant, and democratic state,” it concludes.
The new government is expected to implement the plan for the Western Wall’s pluralistic plaza. The new coalition also includes Israel’s first Reform rabbi lawmaker, Labor’s Gilad Kariv.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken calls Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to congratulate him on the new government, Lapid’s office says.
“The two discussed the special relationship between the United States and Israel. During the call the foreign minister thanked Secretary Blinken for the United States’ unwavering support for Israel,” the statement says.
“At the end of the call, Secretary Blinken invited Foreign Minister Lapid to Washington.”
EU Council President Charles Michel congratulates the new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in a message on Twitter, after an alliance of parties ousts Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Looking forward to strengthen(ing) the (EU-Israel) partnership for common prosperity and towards lasting regional peace & stability,” he tweets.
The European Council represents the European Union’s member states.
Looking forward to strengthen the 🇪🇺 🇮🇱 partnership for common prosperity and towards lasting regional peace & stability.
— Charles Michel (@eucopresident) June 13, 2021
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