Naftali Bennett was sworn in as Israel’s new prime minister on Sunday after winning in a 60-59 vote, ending the 12-year ruling of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
While vocal hecklers spoke out towards Bennett, he carried on with his speech in the Knesset before the final vote. Warning of polarisation while celebrating diversity.
“Friends, as the Jewish people tend to be people with opinions… and as we see here,” Bennett began.
“The Parliament of the Jewish state, is a parliament of opinions, and anyone who has ever seen a pair of students studying Talmud together, or a heated debate about a product in the office corridors of an Israeli start-up, understands the force for good of ‘disputes for the sake of Heaven.’ But there are points in Jewish history in which the disagreements between us have gone out of control, in which they were no longer ‘disputes for the sake of Heaven’, times in which they threatened us, and all that we have built with our sweat and blood.”
Adding the government that is to be formed will “represent many of Israel’s citizens: from Ofra to Tel Aviv, from Rahat to Kiryat Shmona. Precisely here lies the opportunity. Our principle is, we will sit together, and we will forge forward on that which we agree – and there is much we agree on, transport, education and so on, and what separates us we will leave to the side.”
Presenting a work plan which the government will promote immediately (not listing all but some):
- [We will] take responsibility for the education of Israeli children from birth
- [We will] enable many ultra-Orthodox youth to go out to work by lowering the (national service) exemption age from 24 to 21. Not by force, but by positive encouragement, allowing young people who want to learn a vocation to be able to, and those who want to study Torah will continue to do so
- [We will] close with immediate effect the Ministry of Digital Affairs, the Ministry for Water, the Ministry for Communal Advancement, and the Ministry for Strategic Affairs
- [We will] reduce superfluous regulation and frustrating bureaucracy, and we will work for citizen-friendly government services
- [We will] make life easier for independent workers and small business owners, including through unemployment benefits along with increase income support for the elderly to 70% of the minimum wage
- [We will] promote a national plan for the North of Israel, including establishing a hospital and a university in the Galilee
- [We will] work to upgrade Israel’s public transport system, led by Transport Minister-designate Merav Michaeli
- And so on.
After the results were announced, Israel’s new prime ministers shook hands before being individually sworn in. With Bennett being sworn in as Israel’s 13th prime minister and Lapid as the 14th. Bennett received a handshake from the now-former Prime Minister Netanyahu before being sworn in but was declined one after.
While polite towards Bennett at first, Netanyahu soon announced to his supporters on Twitter, “I ask you: do not let your spirit fall. We’ll be back – and faster than you think.”
With Benjamin Netanyahu no longer in position, Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid can run their nation under a new government structure that aims to bring together factions from both sides and the center of Israeli politics.