Naftali Bennett took office Sunday as Israel’s prime minister, ending a 12-year stint as the nation’s leader for Benjamin Netanyahu.
But Netanyahu, who spent 10 years out of office after his first term as prime minister lasted from 1996 to 1999, was not saying farewell.
“We’ll be back soon,” Netanyahu said.
Bennett is one of the leaders of a vast coalition of groups from all parts of the Israeli political spectrum that managed to gain a majority in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset
In his speech before the Knesset voted to make him prime minister, he noted the necessity of working together.
“Twice in history, we have lost our national home precisely because the leaders of the generation were not able to sit with one and another and compromise. Each was right, yet with all their being right, they burnt the house down on top of us,” Bennett said, according to CNN. “I am proud of the ability to sit together with people with very different views from my own.”
When Bennett was heckled while speaking on Sunday, he rebuked members of Netanyahu’s Likud Party.
“The loud tone of the screams is the same as the failure to govern during your term in office,” Bennett said, according to The Jerusalem Post.
But most of his speech was a call for unity.
Celebrations erupt in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square after Naftali Bennett was sworn in as Israel’s new prime minister, unseating Netanyahu after 12 years in office https://t.co/foQsOf8edk pic.twitter.com/fZAkqRImyg
— Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) June 13, 2021
“This is not a day of mourning,” Bennett said, according to a Times of Israel transcript.
“There is no disengagement here. There is no harm being caused to anyone. There is a change of government in a democracy. That’s it. And I assure it is a government that will work for the sake of all the people.
“We will do all we can so that no one should have to feel afraid. We are here in the name of good, and to work. And I say to those who intend to celebrate tonight, don’t dance on the pain of others. We are not enemies, we are one people,” he said.
But his rise is due less to his positions than political jousting.
Netanyahu touched upon that in his remarks Sunday.
“You call yourself the guardians of democracy, but you are so afraid of democracy that you are ready to pass fascist laws against my candidacy — the language of North Korea and Iran — in order to maintain your regime,” he said.
Speculation has flowed that the government would make it illegal to seek the office of prime minister after being indicted — as Netanyahu has — or that it might impose term limits on prime ministers.
President Joe Biden phoned Bennett, according to The Times of Israel.
“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 released by Bennett’s office said.
“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 statement said.
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