Israel awoke Monday with Jewish nationalist Naftali Bennett at the head of a precarious coalition government that faces stark challenges, after 12 years under right-wing Benjamin Netanyahu.
The watershed moment in Israeli politics saw an ideologically disparate eight-party bloc, ranging from right to left to Arab Islamic conservatives, band together to unseat the bombastic veteran known as Bibi by a wafer-thin margin of 60 votes to 59 in parliament on Sunday.
Within hours Bennett, a tech millionaire and former special forces commander, was stepping into his new role as prime minister, speaking with US President Joe Biden and receiving a briefing from national security adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat.
And later Monday, the 49-year-old’s first full day as Israel’s leader, he was set to talk with his one-time ally Netanyahu.
New ministers began meeting with their staff and commemorating the beginning of Israel’s 36th government at Israel’s presidential residence.
In a statement following Bennett’s swearing in, Biden said: “I look forward to working with Prime Minister Bennett to strengthen all aspects of the close and enduring relationship between our two nations. Israel has no better friend than the United States.”
In response, Bennett tweeted: “I look forward to working with you to strengthen the ties between our two nations.”
But the potential for strain appeared on the horizon: Biden has encouraged the negotiation of a new nuclear deal with Iran, which Bennett promised in his speech to parliament he would staunchly oppose.—Agencies