Lapid, Bennett to Form Israeli Government; Arab Party to Share Power in a Historic First

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In a stunning reversal of fortunes for Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu, who latched on to hopes that last minute deals would upset the Opposition plans to unseat him, the coalition led by Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennet have formed a new government in the Jewish state.

The Opposition deal, under which ultra right-wing leader Bennet would become the prime minister in the first of the two split terms, breaks the uninterrupted hold on power Netanyahu enjoyed for long 12 years.

Yair Lapid, the leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party, said he has put together an eight-party coalition to form the new government as of the end of the Wednesday deadline.

Bennett to Become Prime Minister First

This means that the the right-wing Yamina party leader, Bennett, would serve as prime minister first, while Lapid will get the second term. Though the coalition was announced within the deadline offered by the president, a parliamentary vote is a must before the government is sworn in.

Lapid said he has informed President Reuven Rivlin of about the formation of the government. "I pledge that this government will work in the service of all Israeli citizens, those who voted for it and those who did not. It will respect its opponents and do everything in its power to unite and connect all parts of Israeli society," he said.

Another unique feature of the incoming administration is that, for the first time in history, an Arab party will be part of the government. Lapid, Bennett and Arab Islamist Raam party leader Mansour Abbas appeared together in a photo circulated by the coalition circles.

Longest Serving Leader

Netanyahu is Israel's longest serving leader, and he had declared victory after the March elections, which was the fourth to be held in the country in less than two years as the previous three failed to break an electoral deadlock.

His grip on power continued even as elections failed to bring about conclusive results. But his end came when right wing leader Bennett decided to switch sides. "Mr Netanyahu is no longer trying to form a right-wing government because he knows full well that there isn't one. He is seeking to take the whole national camp, and the whole country, with him on his personal last stand ... I will do everything to form a national unity government with my friend Yair Lapid," he said.

This article was first published on June 3, 2021