June 13 (UPI) — The Israeli parliament voted Sunday to confirm a new unity government, ending Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year run of leadership over the country.
Yamina Party leader Naftali Bennett, 49, replaces Netanyahu, 71, as prime minister after reaching agreements with eight other parties to form a coalition government/ The Knesset voted 60-59 to approve the government.
Bennett, the leader of the right-wing Zionist Bayit Yehudi Party, was defense minister from 2019 to 2020. He spoke before the Knesset vote Sunday as he faced opposition from Netanyahu’s Likud Party, who called him a “criminal” and a “liar.”
Addressing what he described as a divide within the nation’s government Bennett said it was “time for responsible leaders from different parts of the nation to stop this madness.”
“I am proud of the ability to sit with people with very different opinions,” he said. “At the decisive moment, we took responsibility.”
Yesh Atid Party leader Yair Lapid, who will succeed Bennett as prime minister in 2023, did not deliver the speech he had prepared for the parliament floor and instead admonished the hecklers for interrupting Bennett’s speech.
“I am skipping the speech I planned to deliver today because I’m here to say one thing — to ask for forgiveness from my mother,” he said. “My mother is 86 years old and we don’t ask her to come to Jerusalem lightly. But we did it because I assumed that you would be able to get over yourselves and behave with statesmanship at this moment and she would see a smooth transition of government.”
Netanyahu said it was his “honor to work night and day for our beloved country” but criticized Bennett for his efforts to take on leadership and said he would fight to regain control from the opposition.
“If we are destined to be in the opposition, we will do it with our heads held high until we bring down this dangerous government,” he said.
On Sunday night, Bennett convened his first Cabinet meeting.
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Bennett was born in Haifa in 1972 and founded Cyota, a high-tech anti-fraud software company, living in New York in the early 2000s for four years.
His American parents, Myrna and Jim Bennett, now live in Haifa.