Israel marks the end of an era with the departure of Netanyahu and his replacement by Bennett

Benjamin Natanyahu Bennett

Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year record as prime minister of Israel came to an end on Sunday after parliament approved a new “Government of Change” led by the nationalist Naftali Bennett, an unlikely scenario few Israelis would have imagined.

In his speech just before the vote, Naftali Bennett called for national reconciliation. “It is time to pass the leadership of the nation and the state to the next generation,” Bennett said, thanking Benjamin Netanyahu for his twelve years of service to Israel despite the discrepancies between them, Reuters reports.

For his part, a militant Netanyahu said when addressing Parliament: “If we are destined to enter the opposition, we will do so with our heads held high until we can bring it down.” That will happen, he added, “sooner than people think.

The new government, formed after inconclusive elections on March 23, largely plans to avoid radical moves on hot international issues, such as policy toward the Palestinians, and focus instead on domestic reforms.

The Palestinians are not particularly happy about the change in administration and predicted that Bennett, a former defense chief who advocates annexing parts of the occupied West Bank, would follow the same right-wing agenda as Likud party leader Netanyahu.

Netanyahu is the longest-serving leader in Israel’s history and was prime minister since 2009, following a first term from 1996 to 1999. However, he has been weakened by his repeated failures to achieve electoral victories since 2019 and for an ongoing corruption trial, in which he denies any wrongdoing.