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New Israeli government ousts longtime Prime Minister Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year run as Israel’s prime minister ended Sunday as parliament voted in a new government by a nail-biting 60-59 margin. Former defense secretary and tech billionaire Naftali Bennett will replace Netanyahu. For more on what this means for Israel and the world at large, NPR’s Deb Amos joins us from Jerusalem.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    For more on the new Israeli government, I spoke with National Public Radio Correspondent Deb Amos who is covering the events in Jerusalem today.

  • Deborah Amos:

    So it took a while and it took two years, and four inconclusive elections, he couldn't put together a coalition even though he won 25% of the vote. This is a parliamentary system. And so that was his problem. And it went to how popular he really is. And he has been challenged, which I think is why it's so stinging for him by men who were his political allies, the future Prime Minister, the one who the Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, worked for. Netanyahu was fired by Netanyahu. There are two other party heads who broke off from him after he booted them out. So they're the ones who are taking him on. And Israelis are tired of the political paralysis. And there hasn't been a budget since two thousand nineteen. And so post COVID post-Gulf War, these were issues that were divisive here. This coalition was they were able to cobble together this very strange, gravity-defying coalition. That is from the left, from the right, there is an Islamic Palestinian party for the first time ever. It's quite an amazing group of people.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    So, yeah, let's talk a little bit about the strange bedfellows here. I mean, on the one hand, Naftali Bennett, he is he has said previously that Israel should take over some of the lands. He thinks that Palestine would be as a state would be a bad idea. But at the same time, this coalition only has a majority of, what, one vote?

  • Deborah Amos:

    Indeed, and so what you hear from analysts here is that they will stick to the stuff they agree on, mostly domestic policy, you know, Netanyahu set a standard for how you do these things. And one of the things that he was able to do over the 12 years that he's been in power for was show Israelis that they can actually do OK without settling the Palestinian issue. And they have made not one single move towards trying to resolve it. And this coalition can last for a while without doing anything that either. And it's quite likely that they will not do it because they cannot do it because they are so ideologically opposed to each other on the big issues. You know, they can agree. Do we need another airport? Yeah. Can we have some more Rossett, be good. What about a second hospital? Yeah, that's great. And for the first time, let's have quite a bit of money. A remarkable amount of money has been pledged to help Arab towns to beef up the police departments in those places to make better schools, better roads. Let's see if that gets to the budget. But these are all domestic issues and the big stuff they can't agree on anyway.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Tell us a little bit about what happened today. I mean, I imagine that Benjamin Netanyahu is not the type to go quietly into the night, nor are his supporters.

  • Deborah Amos:

    Today, what you saw was members of parliament brought the fight to the floor of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, Naftali Bennett was the first one to speak and he couldn't do it. It was very clear that it was organized. There were Likud members who were shouting. There were other people from the Orthodox ultra-Orthodox parties who walked out. I mean, in shouting so loud that Naftali could not speak, it was supposed to be a 15-minute slot. It ended up being almost an hour. Eventually, there were ushers who escorted the loudest out of the chambers, but it was chaos in there. And finally, Bennett said something like, the strength of your screams reflects the strength of your failure. He got into the fray as well then. Next up was Netanyahu, which was a flame-throwing speech. He essentially called Naftali Bennett a liar, a vote thief, a danger to the state of Israel that he would be too weak to stand up to the Americans, to the Iranians, even to the Palestinians. And he essentially said, we will be back and we will be back soon. We're not going to shrink back and be quiet. This is not a presidential system like ours where the president goes off to Texas and is quiet. That's not how this works. So Netanyahu will remain the head of the opposition and he will be as loud as he has been, as divisive as he has been. Now, there are some commentators here who say that is exactly what may keep this coalition together and keep them in their seats because they have this guy who is right over their shoulders and will yell at them for everything they do. And it may keep them together. You know, if you don't hang together, you will hang alone.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    NPR's Deborah Amos joining us from Jerusalem, thanks so much. Thank you.

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