Benjamin Netanyahu has lost his 12-year hold on power in Israel after its parliament voted in a new government.
The new government, made up of a coalition of opposition groups, has pledged to heal caustic divisions caused by Netanyahu’s long rule.
Netanyahu had failed to form a government after a March 23 election – the fourth in two years – and could not block the power-sharing agreement between the groups, headed by his former defence minister Naftali Bennett and opposition leader Yair Lapid.
Right-wing nationalist Bennett has been sworn in as prime minister, leading a “government of change”. He will lead an unprecedented coalition of parties which was approved by just one vote: 60-59.
After the vote, Netanyahu walked over to Bennett and shook his hand.
As part of a power-sharing deal, Bennett will be prime minister until September 2023 when he will hand power over to Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid, for a further two years.
Netanyahu, 71, is Israel’s longest-serving leader and has dominated its political landscape for years. He has been prime minister since 2009 and previously held the post from 1996 to 1999.
He will remain head of the right-wing Likud party and now become leader of the opposition.
During the debate in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, he vowed: “We’ll be back.”
He said, “If it is destined for us to be in the opposition, we will do it with our backs straight until we topple this dangerous government and return to lead the country in our way.”
Representatives of the Palestinians have reacted dismissively to Israel’s new government.
“This is an internal Israeli affair. Our position has always been clear, what we want is a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital,” a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said.
A spokesman for Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza said, “It is an occupation and a colonial entity, which we should resist by force to get our rights back.”
US President Joe Biden has already sent his congratulations to Bennett, saying he looks forward to working with him.